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The Martyrdom of Jan Wouterss van Kuyck & Adriaenken Jans (1572 A.D.)

(Account from Martyrs Mirror, pp. 897-899)

In the year of our Lord 1572, the lords of justice at Dortrecht in Holland, laid their hands on two very meek and dear friends of God, who followed their Saviour, the slain Lamb of the cross, Jesus Christ, and were not of the least of the members of the church of the Lord scattered abroad in all countries, in showing forth, as lights in this world, their eminent virtues among this evil and perverse generation. They were both taken out of the fold like lambs for the slaughter, the circumstances being as follows:

First, Adriaenken Jans’ daughter was suddenly apprehended. She resided at Molenaersgraef, in the Papendrecht district; which was under the jurisdiction of the city of Dortrecht, and because she was said to be a heretic, she was seized and imprisoned in the Vuylpoort.

After that the plan was formed to capture Jan Wouterss van Kuyck, who resided in the city, but frequently changed his abode, so as not to be so easily recognized. To this end, the bailiff, having learned where he resided (namely, in the street leading to the Rietdijck, near the New Gate, in a room which was reached from the street by a flight of stairs), came with his beadles and unexpectedly, and without asking anything, ascended the stairs, where Jan Wouterss met him just as he opened the door. The bailiff said, since he did not know him: “Does Jan van Kuyck reside here?” to which this good, upright and very sincere man, not willing to speak contrary to the truth, answered yes, adding that it was he himself.

These words he spoke very loudly, in order that his dear wife, who was back in the room, should hear it and flee, which she did: his only daughter, however, a child of only about seven years, remained in the room and saw her father apprehended, to which no attention was paid. The ministers of justice immediately laid their hands upon this friend of God, and forcibly bound him, whereupon he said: “O my lords, how you bind me, as though I were a wicked man; however, you bind not me, but yourselves.” Then a great lamentation arose among them; however, they proceeded, and led him, as a defenseless lamb that is overcome by wolves, from the Rietdijck to the Vuylpoort, about half an hour’s walk through the city, where they put him into another cell than the one in which Adriaenken Jans was confined, though within the same walls and under the same roof of said prison.

In the meantime both had to suffer much temptation, according to the body as well as in regard to the soul; several times they were severely tortured, stripped, and scourged, so that almost the entire city spoke about their sufferings and misery, as Jan Wouterss subsequently also indicated in one of his letters.

The [Roman Catholic] clergy also assailed them much according to the soul, in order to deprive them, by many wiles and snares, of the treasure of a true faith; but they were not able to accomplish anything with either of them; hence they [the two martyrs], were finally sentenced to death in open court, to be executed with fire, on the water front of the city, near a certain lime kiln, where now the new fortification is, between the mill that stands upon the bastion, and the rampart; however, with the condition, that Adriaenken Jans should not really die by fire, but should prior to her burning be strangled at the stake, which lesser penalty of death we do not find to have been executed on Jan Wouterss.

In the meantime both prepared themselves for death with great desire and inward joy, unable sufficiently to praise God that they had been counted worthy to deliver up their bodies as a sacrifice for His holy name’s sake.

When the hour of their departure had come, both were tied together; however, they fell upon their knees, and quietly offered up, before they were led forth, an earnest prayer to God the Lord, that He would strengthen them in their impending suffering, to persevere unto the end.

Thereupon their mouths (for fear that they should speak something to the people), were gagged with a piece of wood, or some other instrument made for this purpose, and they were thus led from the prison which presented a pitiful sight. Jan Wouterss, however, pulled out the piece of wood, or instrument, with one hand, which it appears was not bound, and cried with a loud voice: “O Lord, strengthen Thy feeble servant: and Thy poor handmaiden. It is for Thy name’s sake that we have come to this for which we have willingly prepared ourselves.”

When he had said this, one of his fellow believers, whose heart, as it seems, had been set aflame hereby mightily pressed his way through the people, and coming before him, said: “Strive valiantly, dear brother, you will suffer no more hereafter.”

Thereupon Jan Wouterss instantly pulled open his jacket and showed him his breast bloody from the scourging inflicted upon him in prison and said: “I already bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus;” and he lifted up his eyes to heaven, looking longingly as it were to the heavenly resting place.

In the meanwhile, before all this was properly noticed, because of the surging crowd, said person went out of sight and disappeared among the people; whereupon some of the servants of justice murmured and sternly asked, where this man was. This occurred near the swine market, close by the New Haven.
They went on and soon arrived at the place of execution, where two stakes stood erected near, and around which an innumerable multitude was gathered.

Having arrived there, they ascended the height, or erected scaffold, where they on their knees again quietly prayed to God, though Jan Wouterss only was able to speak, since the mouth of Adriaenken Jans was well gagged with the previously mentioned piece of wood, or instrument.

When they had risen, preparations were first made to strangle Adriaenken Jans, whereupon she placed herself at the stake.

Then Jan Wouterss said: “This is the day of salvation.” But the underbailiff, hearing this, sternly cried: “Be silent.” Thereupon Jan Wouterss said: “Why should I keep silent; I certainly speak nothing that is evil.”

In the meantime Adriaenken Jans was strangled…

The servants of justice then turned to Jan Wouterss, who cheerfully, yea, with a smiling countenance, placed himself at the other stake, which stood close by, where he while being fastened to it, noticed that some of his fellow believers stood among the people, to see his end; to whom, without naming any one, he cried aloud: “Adieu and farewell, my dear brethren and sisters, I will herewith commend you to the Lord, to the Lord who shed His blood for us.” With this he made haste and prepared himself for death, commending his soul to God in these words: “O God, who art my strength, I commend my spirit into Thy hands.”

Then fire was set to the wood piled around him, and this friend of God was burned alive, as it appears, with his dead sister, to the great sorrow of many that stood around and were filled with commiseration at the sight of it.

This was the end of these two dear favorites of the Lord, of whom no one spake any evil (touching their life), but whom every one praised on account of their virtuous walk.

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The Martyrdom of Joris and Joachim (1560 A.D.)

(Account from Martyrs Mirror, p. 644)


A.D. 1560 there were brought before the court at Antwerp two pious Christians, named Joris and Joachim.  As they were standing as sheep for the slaughter before the lords, the bailiff asked Joris whether he was rebaptized.  He replied: “I am baptized according to the doctrine of Christ, as He commanded His apostles, saying: ‘Go and preach to all nations.  He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.’  Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16.  Hence they must first be taught and believe, and then be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”


The bailiff also asked Joachim whether he was baptized.  He replied: “I hold to one baptism, one faith, one Lord, and God.”  Eph. 4:5, 6.


Then the lords sentenced them according to the king’s mandate, whereupon Joachim, hearing his sentence, said: “My lords, we thank you for your trouble with us; but may God forgive you the blindness of your heart, and grant that you may become enlightened.”


As they were coming out of the court, they said: “We are not ashamed of the Gospel” (Rom. 1:16); and while walking in the street, they sang:


“O Lord forever in my thought Thou art;

My soul doth long to be close to Thy heart.”

Ps. 143:8.


Thereupon Joachim said: “Fear not them that kill the body; for hereafter, when they mourn, we shall rejoice.”  Luke 6:23.


Thus they as giants in the faith pressed through the strait gate to the new Jerusalem.  After they had come to the place where they were to offer up their burnt sacrifice, they gave each other the kiss of peace.  Standing at the stake, Joachim said: “O Father, forgive them that inflict this suffering upon us; but we thank Thee that Thou hast made us worthy to suffer for Thy name; therefore, O Lord, assist us, and succor us with Thy help in this last extremity.” 


Joris said: “Lord Thou knowest that I have sought Thee and my salvation; and for this cause I must now die.  Therefore, O Lord, receive me graciously.”  He further said: “Citizens of Antwerp, fear not; though we die for the truth, Christ our Lord went before us, and we must follow Him.”  They then began to sing this farewell hymn: “Farewell, brethren and sisters all,” etc.  Thereupon they commended their spirits into the hands of God, and ended their lives in the fire.  They now lie under the altar, and wait to be clothed with white linen raiment, and to shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father, where they shall be served with new wine and heavenly bread.  Rev. 6:9; 19:8; Matt. 13:43; 26:28; Rev. 2:17.

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Dirk Willems (1569 A.D.)




(Account from Martyrs Mirror, pp. 741-742)


In the year 1569 a pious, faithful brother and follower of Jesus Christ, named Dirk Willems, was apprehended at Asperen, in Holland, and had to endure severe tyranny from the papists (Roman Catholics.) But as he had founded his faith not upon the drifting sand of human commandments, but upon the firm foundation stone, Christ Jesus, he, notwithstanding all evil winds of human doctrine, and heavy showers of tyrannical and severe persecution, remained immovable and steadfast unto the end; wherefore, when the chief Shepherd shall appear in the clouds of heaven and gather together His elect from all the ends of the earth, he shall also through grace hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” I Pet. 5:4; Matt. 24:31; 25:23.

Concerning his apprehension, it is stated by trustworthy persons, that when he fled he was hotly pursued by a thief-catcher, and as there had been some frost, said Dirk Willems ran before over the ice, getting across with considerable peril. The thief-catcher following him broke through, when Dirk Willems, perceiving that the former was in danger of his life, quickly returned and aided him in getting out, and thus saved his life. The thief-catcher wanted to let him go, but the burgomaster, very sternly called to him to consider his oath, and thus he was again seized by the thief-catcher, and, at said place, after severe imprisonment and great trials proceeding from the deceitful papists, put to death at a lingering fire by these bloodthirsty, ravening wolves, enduring it with great steadfastness, and confirming the genuine faith of the truth with his death and blood, as an instructive example to all pious Christians of this time, and to the everlasting disgrace of the tyrannous papists.

NOTE: In this connection, it is related as true from the trustworthy memoirs of those who were present at the death of this pious witness of Jesus Christ, that the place where this offering occurred was without Asperen, on the side of Leerdam, and that, a strong east wind blowing that day, the kindled fire was much driven away from the upper part of his body, as he stood at the stake; in consequence of which this good man suffered a lingering death, insomuch that in the town of Leerdam, towards which the wind was blowing, he was heard to exclaim over seventy times, “O my Lord; my God,” etc., for which cause the judge or bailiff, who was present on horseback, filled with sorrow and regret at the man’s sufferings, wheeled about his horse, turning his back toward the place of execution, and said to the executioner, “Dispatch the man with a quick death.” But how or in what manner the executioner then dealt with this pious witness of Jesus, I have not been able to learn, except only, that his life was consumed by the fire, and that he passed through the conflict with great steadfastness, having commended his soul into the hands of God.

As we have come into possession of the sentence which these rulers of darkness passed upon this friend of God, we have deemed it well, to add it here for the benefit of the readers, in order that reading the same, they may be able to perceive the truth of this matter.

COPY: Whereas, Dirk Willems, born at Asperen, at present a prisoner, has, without torture and iron bonds (or otherwise) before the bailiff and us judges, confessed, that at the age of fifteen, eighteen or twenty years, he was rebaptized in Rotterdam, at the house of one Pieter Willems, and that he, further, in Asperen, at his house, at divers hours, harbored and admitted secret conventicles and prohibited doctrines, and that he also has permitted several persons to be rebaptized in his aforesaid house; all of which is contrary to our holy Christian faith, and to the decrees of his royal majesty, and ought not to be tolerated, but severely punished, for an example to others; therefore, we the aforesaid judges, having, with mature deliberation of council, examined and considered all that was to be considered in this matter, have condemned and do condemn by these presents in the name; and in the behalf, of his royal majesty, as Count of Holland, the aforesaid Dirk Willems, prisoner, persisting obstinately in his opinion, that he shall be executed with fire, until death ensues; and declare all his property confiscated, for the benefit of his royal majesty. So done this 16th of May, in presence of the judges: Cornelis Goverts, Jan van Stege Jans, Adriaen Gerritts, Adriaen Jans, Lucas Rutgers, Jan Jans, and Jan Roefelofs, A. D., 1569.

Extracted from the records of the town of Asperen, and after collation this copy was found to agree [with the original], the 15th of October 1606. Acknowledged by me, the town clerk of Asperen.

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The Third Baptism

By Mike Atnip


I have a baptism to be baptized with …
Luke 12:50


One could fill a library with the books that have been written about the first two baptisms. In the life of Jesus, our Perfect Example, we find Him being baptized with water by John the Baptist. In quick succession, the Holy Spirit “descend[ed] like a dove, and light[ed] upon him.” It is easy to see two baptisms here; one with water, and the other with the Holy Ghost.


But further on in the Gospel story, we see Jesus commenting about a baptism that He had not yet accomplished: “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” Lu. 12:50


It was this baptism that the early Anabaptists called “the third baptism.” Sometimes it was referred to as the “baptism of suffering,” or “the baptism of blood.” This latter term came from 1 John 5:8, which tells us, “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”


The “forgotten” baptism


This third baptism is largely ignored today. In fact, it has in some cases been replaced with a baptism that is just the opposite of suffering. By this I mean what may well be called a “baptism of blessings.” This so-called “Prosperity Gospel” is what the Apostle Paul called “another gospel” in 2 Corinthians 11:4 and Galatians 1:16. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of “another spirit” and “another Jesus.” So if someone comes preaching a Jesus that does not live and act like the Jesus in the four Gospels, then we need to beware. In connection with the theme of this article, we can easily deduce that whoever does not preach that the disciples of Jesus should follow their Master into His baptism of suffering, it is “another Jesus.” The Jesus that Paul preached told His disciples, “he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” Mt 10:38


Yet today we see preachers, famous in this world, telling people about a Jesus that offers them material prosperity. The “proof” is the preacher’s $23,000 toilet, air-conditioned doghouse, or the $20 million dollar jet. So instead of preaching a bloody, painful baptism of suffering, a baptism of material blessings is promised to those who believe in their “Jesus.”


I promise you …


It would seem that a person who is looking for people to follow him would offer his devotees something better than a lifetime of suffering. How many political candidates would get elected if in his campaign speeches he said, “Hey, vote for me and I promise you that I will lead you into the biggest economic depression this country has seen yet!” Yet, Jesus—the Jesus of the Bible—essentially tells His followers something very close to that. “Follow Me,” He told them. And then He voluntarily allowed Himself to be martyred without the least resistance—and He could have called 10,000 angels if He wanted to!


Why suffering?


One of the big causes of unbelief that people stumble over concerning the God of the Bible is the question as to how a “good God” can allow evil to happen. How can a supposedly omnipotent [All-powerful] God allow suffering and evil to continue in the world? How could He, who is stronger than Satan, have allowed him to continue for so long? How can it be that a good God allows innocent children to starve?


Those are valid questions, ones that I don’t claim to be able to give a complete answer to, other than two points: 1. Man’s choice to sin is the cause of evil in the world, and God allows humanity a free choice. The freedom for a man to choose unrighteousness will affect others around them. Although God sometimes does limit a man from harming others, He does not totally stop sin and its consequences from happening. 2. Suffering is necessary in this world so that the righteous character of God can be made manifest.


We will examine the second point in this article.


The beginning


When Adam chose to disobey God, God was forced to separate from Adam. Adam and his posterity were then left to the whims of their own mind and the temptations of their flesh and those of Satan. By nature—without God’s Spirit within to guide and empower—humans will choose that which serves to bring them the most pleasure. This is the opposite of God’s nature, which is love, the opposite of self-centeredness. Thus man’s fallen state left his character opposed to God’s character. Self and love cannot be mixed, just like oil and water do not mix.


When man began to follow his own ways, it was anarchy. In anarchy, every man does that which he thinks best, and this usually translates into doing what brings him the most personal gain and pleasure. So if Bob has 100 acres, but he sees Joe has 200 acres and better cows, Bob plans a midnight raid and kills Joe and takes over his land and cows.


We call that “unrighteousness” because it is not morally right, not what God’s character is like. And God’s character is the basis that determines if something is “righteous” or “unrighteous.”


Man without God will basically act like an animal, as Ecclesiastes 3:18 tells us: “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.” So just like a wild animal will fight for its survival, killing one of its own over who gets to eat the prey, man fights and kills and strives for the mastery over his fellow man.


Righteous vs. unrighteousness


Humanity without God will be unrighteous. As their morals and integrity degrade (which is the natural course for people without God), humans will cheat and hurt and deceive even those who try to help them. Think of those men who will cheat old grandmothers out of their bank accounts and houses, even though the old lady is very kind to them. This is total unrighteousness: returning evil for good.


To limit this unrighteousness and help humanity from slipping into total degeneracy, God instituted human governments. These usually form some sort of basic guidelines to help limit the worst forms of unrighteousness, with applicable punishments for those who break the guidelines. The Law of Moses was one of these governments, albeit a special law that also had many types and shadows of the Gospel built into it.


These laws did not restore humanity to the fullness of God’s nature and character, but they did try to put a harness on the worst of man’s unrighteous actions. Most governments recognize that murder, stealing, and cheating are wrong and make laws to limit these evils. Basically, instead of evil for good, civil laws say evil for evil and good for good. This means that Bob should not kill Joe for his land and his cows, but if Bob does break the moral code and attack Joe, Joe is allowed to return the evil and defend himself. Most of the civil governments of this world operate on this basis, more or less. Under the threat of punishment, most men can live up to the “evil for evil” standard of righteousness. And of course, it is not hard to return good for good. If Bob invites Joe for a barbecue, Joe may well invite him for some watermelon on a hot day.


A kingdom of righteousness


Then came the kingdom of God. Jesus began the Gospel message by laying out the righteousness upon which His kingdom would operate. Of course, it would not be unrighteousness: evil for good. But, neither would it be evil for evil, good for good. It was to be a radically new kingdom. Actually, it was simply a return to God’s original intent for man in the Garden of Eden. Christ’s kingdom would be a kingdom based upon the heavenly concept of good for evil! Now, when Joe hears the rumor that Bob is about to attack him and take his land and cows, Joe visits Bob and blesses him.


So we see the three “levels” of righteousness:

  1. Total unrighteousness: evil for good.
  2. Righteousness by civil law, or human righteousness: evil for evil, good for good.
  3. The righteousness of God: good for evil.

Let’s look at a few issues in the light of these three levels of righteousness, starting with war. In total unrighteousness, one nation can attack another for whatever reason. In human righteousness, war is often limited to what may be called “just war”: if one nation does attack another, then the attacked people have a right to fight back. In God’s righteousness, when a people are attacked, they do not fight back, but even bless the attackers.


In boundary disputes, total unrighteousness may flare into a shootout if the two parties involved get into an argument. When one side has killed the other, “to the victor go the spoils.” In human righteousness, boundary disputes are taken before a judge, who tries to hear both sides and make a just decision. In the kingdom of God, if one side tries to move the boundary marker illegitimately, the other lets him do so without a fight, and may even tell the offender to take double.


Back to suffering


What place does a baptism of suffering have in the kingdom of God? The answer is that suffering is the only way in which the righteousness of God can be manifested. One early Anabaptist writer even put it this way: “A man can only be made righteous through suffering.” If you are like me, that little sentence will make you shake your head on the first time reading it. But after contemplation as to what he meant, I began to concur. Let me explain.


Jesus told his disciples in Luke 6:32-34 that “if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” In other words, is it really anything extra-ordinary for a man to practice human righteousness? Of course, those who do practice “evil for evil, good for good” can congratulate themselves that they are not like the totally unrighteous person who practices “evil for good.” But Jesus came preaching a higher level of righteousness, the righteousness of God, the righteousness that is inherent to His holy character. He told His disciples in Matthew 5:20, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”


The righteousness that the scribes and Pharisees measured themselves with was the Mosaic law. And this law did hold men accountable to a measure of righteousness that was better than total unrighteousness. Poking out a man’s eye for no reason was prohibited. But if someone poked out your eye, you had a right to poke his out: eye for eye. “Evil for evil” was okay in Moses’ law, but “evil for good” was outlawed. Jesus told His followers that if they were going to enter into and live in His kingdom, they had to move beyond the “evil for evil” level of righteousness.


Jesus did not leave His disciples in the dark as to some practical applications. He took them through several points of the Mosaic law and lifted the standard up to the righteous character of God, and how that would work out in practical terms.


His disciples were a bit taken aback. At one point, they exclaimed, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” It seems they questioned, like many people do, whether it would be possible to live up to the new standard.


The role of suffering


Let’s contemplate the heavenly kingdom’s standard of righteousness. Jesus said it plainly when He told His followers, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” The Apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 12:21: “Overcome evil with good.”


Now, here is the “big” question: how could a man practice the kingdom righteousness of “good for evil,” if there were no evil in this world? If all that was in the world was good, there would be no opportunities for the character of God’s righteousness to fully manifest itself. If there were no unjust (unrighteous) people in the earth, God could never manifest His full righteous character of returning “good for evil.”


Obviously, we would all prefer to live in a world in which there was no unrighteousness. But when we ponder this whole point, suddenly we see the “need” for evil. If all were good, there would never be the opportunity to manifest the character of our good God in its fullness. Only when the true righteousness of God confronts evil, and overcomes it by good, can God’s glory shine its brightest. One cannot suffer triumphantly if he never suffers!


And so to reveal the glory of God, God had to come into an evil place, a place where He would suffer evil, so that He could practice—make manifest—His righteous character trait of “good for evil.”


Thus God came into this world through His Son Jesus to suffer, to triumph over evil by returning good to those who abused Him. His name was glorified through it all.


Made righteous through suffering


The author of Hebrews tells us that the Messiah, “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” It is a little hard for us to think of Jesus having to “learn obedience,” but the author continues, saying, “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”


That word “perfect” can throw us into a tailspin if we are not careful. The word “perfect” in the KJV usually means “completed,” or “brought to its finished state.” So when Jesus passed through the final “test” of suffering, and “passed the test” by forgiving and returning a blessing on those who had unrighteously treated Him, His obedience was “perfected.” He had proved that He “had what it takes” to always return good for evil. The righteous character of God within Him had triumphed over every temptation. He now had the right to become the “author of eternal salvation.” In Hebrews 2:10, it is written “For it became him [was necessary for Him], for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”


An analogy could be like a construction company that is looking for an experienced backhoe operator. When the applicant shows up, they may well take him out back and show him the machine that he will be operating, and say, “Fire it up and dig me a hole over there. I want to see if you can really do this.”


God could have planned it somehow that Jesus just stayed in heaven, and then told everyone to believe that it was possible for a man to walk on earth in a human body without sinning. But God “proved” to the world that it was possible. He proved, through His son Jesus, that it is possible to live righteously among unredeemed people, practicing “good for evil” and holiness. He sent Jesus, permitting great abuse to be heaped upon Him, to prove that this Jesus was capable in all circumstances to overcome the evil with good. “It pleased the Lord to bruise him,” (Is. 53:10) because the Father knew the Son would overcome the evil with good. The righteous response of the Son towards the evil inflicted upon Him was a beautiful aroma in the Father’s nose, qualifying Him to be the “author of eternal salvation.”


The Lion of the tribe of Judah prevailed over evil, and His blood was taken from Him and sprinkled in the inner sanctuary [spirit] of dead humanity to enliven, purify, and forgive. Whosoever would look upon the victorious Son on the tree could be quickened into a new life of righteousness, by the Holy Spirit.


He suffers still


But the Messiah still suffers today … in His body. And He still overcomes today … in His body. He is still going through the third baptism, yet today … in His body. His people are still being “baptized” with unrighteous deeds against them, so that the righteousness of God can manifest itself in every generation. Persecutions, banishments, lawsuits, divorces, angry words, abuse, and cursings are still heaped upon the saints.


Yes, it still pleases God to “bruise” His people with suffering, because He knows that the beautiful aroma of His righteous character—which He planted in them—will arise from the situation. Just like a crushed flower gives off a greater aroma, so God’s people produce more righteousness when they are “crushed” in suffering.


God is not a sadist. He does not enjoy watching people suffer because He enjoys watching twisted faces, looks of despair, and hearing screams of pains. But it is only when we suffer that we can return good for evil. If we never pass through evil circumstances, we could never respond righteously to evil circumstances. Thus it remains the lot of God’s people to suffer.


The first letter of Peter is filled with the idea of suffering, and how suffering fits into the Christian life. Although we will not look at all of that letter now, notice one phrase in 1 Peter 3:14: “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye.” While I would not insist that the following is what Peter meant, let us consider what may be a new way of looking at this sentence. We probably tend to think that Peter is saying that “If you did what was right and got blasted for it, rejoice.” That is certainly true, and may be what Peter intended. But let’s suppose that Peter means, “If God sends you into a situation where you suffer terrible, unjust treatment—just so God can have you respond with “good for evil” righteousness—rejoice!” In other words, God may allow one of your employees to embezzle $50,000 from your business, just so that the world can see you respond like Christ would in the situation. God is “bruising” you to get a sweet odor! And we are supposed to rejoice at the opportunity!


Check this box if you would like to opt out of suffering
There are no opt-out options to the third baptism in the Christian life!

No opt-outs allowed


When a man or a woman comes to Christ to be a disciple, no alternative is given to opt out of any of the three baptisms. We definitely need the baptism of the Holy Spirit. How else could we be empowered to live like Christ? We are commanded to go into the whole world, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”


Our flesh usually has no problem accepting baptism with water or with the Holy Ghost. But it screams in defiance at the third baptism: the baptism of a bloody suffering. There are no little boxes to check off in the “contract” of the New Covenant, that is, a little box that says, “Check here if you would like to opt out of any of the following baptisms.” Entrance into the kingdom is a total surrender of the will to whatever God has in store; we don’t “bargain” with God.


Jesus told us we need to count the cost before following Him. He said that we must take up the cross and follow Him. No opt-outs. As we have already seen in this article, the only way that the righteousness of the kingdom of God can manifest itself is when evil happens. Evil must happen, or we cannot overcome it with good.


So we must count the cost. If we don’t want to have any suffering in our lives … then don’t even think of becoming a disciple of Jesus! It is true; God may choose some of us to have less suffering, but if we want to conquer unrighteousness, unrighteousness has to happen to us. We cannot overcome bitterness unless we experience a situation that tempts us to hold a grudge. Being treated nicely doesn’t usually tempt us to bitterness, so we must needs experience treatment—a mistreatment—that isn’t so nice!


Glorification through suffering


Right after Judas left the room on the night before He was crucified, Jesus told His disciples, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.” Jn 13:32


When we think of glorifying God, we often think of singing praises or testifying of the great things God has done. While this is one way to glorify God, there is a better way. That way is to manifest God’s character in trying situations. Others looking on will see the righteous response and glorify the Father.


Jesus glorified the Father on the cross when He openly revealed that He had something within Him that was stronger than the terrible injustice being done to Him. [He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city … Pr. 16:32] In return, God glorified the Son. It is recorded that when the centurion who was at the crucifixion “saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.” Lu. 23:47


Peter, preaching after Pentecost, told the crowd about the glory of the cross: “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.” The glorification of Jesus happened when He was unjustly crucified and responded with forgiveness.


God will also glorify us, if we will accept the suffering in our life and respond righteously. Paul wrote that we are “joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” And in another place Paul expressed the great longing to know God. Not just know about Him, but to really know Him. And in that context, Paul speaks of the role of sufferings in his relationship with Christ, saying, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” Fellowship with Christ consisted of cosuffering with Him. In his letter to Timothy, Paul states that “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” That simply means that if we will take Christ and His power with us into an unjust situation that we are put into, He will give us grace to return good for evil, thus conquering evil. If we let an evil circumstance move us to respond back with evil, evil has conquered us. But when we let Christ move us to respond to evil with good, we have conquered evil.


Destroying sin by suffering


Peter tells us in his letter, “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” 1 Pe. 4:1


In 1527, the Anabaptist Leonard Schiemer wrote a letter to the church at Rattenberg, saying, “It is true, Christ’s suffering destroys sin, but only if He suffers in man. For as the water does not quench my thirst unless I drink it, and as the bread does not drive away my hunger unless I eat it, even so Christ’s suffering does not prevent me from sinning until He suffers in me.”[1] When Jesus suffered unrighteous treatment, He “ceased from sin” by not returning evil for evil. In the same way, we can “cease from sin” when we return good for the evil done to us. In this way, sin is destroyed and conquered … by the Christ living in us!


One favorite analogy among the early Anabaptists was that of a tree in the woods. That tree is a house; but only a potential house. Only after the tree suffers the pain of the axe and saw, turning the tree into useful boards, is the tree really a house.


And so it is with the Christian and righteousness. A child of God, birthed into a new life by a baptism of the Holy Ghost, is a fountain of righteous deeds—or like the tree in the woods, a potential fountain. It is only after the believer has been sawn and shaped by sufferings does his righteous character come to any fruitful use. In this analogy, we can now grasp how the one Anabaptist could write that we can only be made righteous through suffering. We are made righteous when God regenerates us, but that righteousness becomes tangible through our responses to unrighteous actions against us.


Fruits of righteousness


In 1536, Andres Keller wrote an anguished plea to the lords who had him imprisoned for his faith:

I hope, dear lords, that you will not act rashly against me. I say this not from deceitful motives, but because I do not want you to incriminate yourselves by doing me violence. What good is it to you to reduce me to this miserable condition? I am distressed beyond misery, I am poverty-stricken and robbed of my ability to work, beyond what I could ever overcome in my lifetime [They had tortured him so severely he didn’t think he would ever heal enough to be able to work again.] I have been starved so that I cannot now eat or drink, and my body is broken. How would you like to live for five weeks with only boiled water and unflavored bread soup?

I have been lying in the darkness on straw. All this would not be possible if God had not given me an equal measure of His love. I marvel that I have not become confused or insane. I would have frozen if God had not strengthened me, for you can well imagine how a little bit of hot water will warm one. In addition to this, I suffered great torture twice from the executioner, who has ruined my hands, unless the Lord heals them. I have had enough [torture] to last me the rest of my days.

However, I know that God never forsakes me if I suffer for the sake of his word. I know full well that I have experienced with great pain the Enemy’s temptations against you. May God forgive you and all the dear people who have falsely accused me before you.[2]

Did you catch the righteousness of God manifesting itself? The returning of good for evil, the blessing for cursing? Mangled for life because of false accusations, yet forgiving … that is the righteousness of Christ coming out of suffering! That is the tree being sawn into boards to create a house.


Such poignant accounts of suffering should strike us here in North America as to how little we suffer in our time. We think it is “suffering” if we leave our lights on at Walmart and have a dead battery when we get back out to our vehicle. Or, perhaps we rip our dress on the rose bush while we pass.


Yet, I know that we all do suffer injustice in some degree. It is part and parcel of life on Earth, and it is a required part of being a disciple of Jesus. People mock us. People steal our goods. People cheat us. Friends turn their back on us. Although the Bible doesn’t clearly say so, I personally believe that God purposely lines Christians up to suffer some of these things, quite on purpose, just to manifest His glory.


These are hard things to go through, but if we would just stop and consider the matter, it is the only way that we can clearly manifest the righteous character of God that He has given to us as a great, undeserved gift. And just like the tree needs some working to become useful, we must pass through suffering to produce the full righteousness of Christ.


The answer


Perhaps it will help us to look upon our future sufferings not as “trials” (which they are), but as opportunities for God to overcome evil with good. When evil is overcome by good, then the kingdom of God has come to earth. Someday, all evil will be banished forever, and the kings of God’s kingdom (those who overcame evil) will be taken to a place where there will never be any more evil to conquer. What a day that will be!


But until that time, we must, as Conrad Grebel wrote to Thomas Muntzer, “be baptized in anguish and affliction, tribulation, persecution, suffering, and death. [We] must be tried with fire, and must reach the fatherland of eternal rest, not by killing [our] bodily enemies, but by killing [our] spiritual enemies.”[3]


Jesus has told us, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life!” Re. 2:10


May the grace of God take you through your third baptism! A crown awaits those who overcome!


[1] Walter Klassen, ed., Anabaptism in Outline, ((Kitchener, Ont, Scottdale, Pa): Herald Press, 1981), 90-91.

[2] Ibid., 93.

[3] George Huntston Williams and Angel M. Mergal, eds., Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, Ichthus, ((Philadelphia, PA): Westminster, 1957), 80.


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

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Who Were the Early Anabaptists?

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”.




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.




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.




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.



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.




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.




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.





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.



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.




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.





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.


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 (
 “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.

Posted on

He Died at His Post

The story of Johnny Kline

By Mike Atnip

Preacher on horseback 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


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!


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!


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!

Delivering food to Brethren men in jail

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.

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Dedication – A Noble Example for Young People

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.

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He loved righteousness…and hated iniquity

Based on the message given by Mose Stoltzfus at Bro. Denny Kenaston’s funeral service

I find it incredibly difficult to put thirty-plus years into a few minutes of expression, in great feebleness. I want to read Isaiah 57:1.

The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.

It has been thirty plus years since I found Bro. Denny and his wife sitting hippie style on the floor at a wedding reception in Sparta, Tennessee. My wife and I were invited to their home the next day for a meal, and I remember Bro. Denny trying to learn how to run a woodstove and stirring a fire with a poker. I remember how Denny had awakened to feed the fire in the middle of the night and God had spoken to him, “Denny, go stir up the churches.”

I asked him, in light of something happening here in Lancaster County, whether he would consider such a thing as working together, and I think his answer was, “I’d go anywhere to preach the gospel.” I have found that to be a true statement, from the dark, difficult regions of Africa, to all over the US and Canada and other parts of the world.

Our relationship was incredibly unique. Different ones have come to me through the years and referred to our relationship as a near husband/wife relationship, and I would have to say that it had its similarities to that type of relationship. It was divine, I believe. I remember coming home from Tennessee that time—in December it will be 31 years—and there was something that held my spirit in the hand of God and that seemed that something was about to happen, or that God had done something in our hearts that was not human. I still believe that very firmly.

We were very different men, but that difference was complimentary to each other, as I knew that whatever I faced or the mistakes I made, Bro. Denny loved me … and I loved him.

And that paved the way for many, many years of being able to understand each other, to the point of it not being a battle for me to know what he was thinking, and it was not a battle for him to know what I was thinking. We’d get into many difficult situations in church work, and as we would confer together, our hearts would often blend in an amazing way to come up with an answer for a situation we were facing. I thank God from the depth of my heart for this great privilege which was beyond any words I can put together.

It was a great difficulty, that—due to the growth of the congregation at Charity Christian Fellowship—Denny and I separated into two congregations. Many men have considered it a mistake that we were separated in our ministry, and we have to let that in the hands of God, but that is certainly a possibility.

Concerning Denny’s input in my life, first of all, I was wounded a bit and struggling with things, 30 years ago. He came from a very different perspective—not coming from my traditional background—which was a tremendous help to me in not becoming a bitter man, and to respond rightly through difficulties, condemnations, or rejections. I often cried to him in those difficult times and he led me to think and feel right about all those things and to continue on. I remember many times when we had difficult experiences, trying to find some broader acceptance in the body of Christ, and would get a closed door. Denny would say, “Well, we’ll just go on. We’ll just go on and do God’s work.”

Last night a verse came to my mind in Hebrews 1, where it is speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ:

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

I am not trying to make Denny a messiah or lift him up above that which is right to do, but I would only like to explain his love for righteousness as I knew it through the years.

This man loved righteousness, beyond a shadow of doubt in my heart!

First of all, he taught us much of the centrality of Jesus Christ. His love for the Lord Jesus was expressed in many messages and conversations. Denny loved righteousness!

He often preached out of Colossian 1, “in whom, of whom” and he would go on with that in the centrality of Jesus Christ. He loved the book of Isaiah and often preached out of it, and he loved Isaiah’s vision when he saw God high and lifted up and His train filled the temple, and he saw his own undoneness. Denny compared that to our human experience as we saw the holiness of God. Bro. Denny loved the attributes of God and preached them here in Bible School, and preached them in great detail.

Another attribute about him is that he loved the gospel. He had a hold of the gospel message in a concise way. For many years we took trips to New York City to Washington Square Park and I was always thrilled in my heart as he would get up and give a little description of his hippie life of smoking marijuana and living in sin and fornication, and how God changed his life from top to bottom. And he would put the gospel message in a concise way as the people sat and stood spellbound, many times, listening to the gospel story of the change made in this man. Many of the listeners would have had a hard time believing that God could change such a man.

Bro. Denny loved righteousness, in that he had an unparalleled devotional life beyond anything that I knew. When we travelled together, staying up late at night, he would still try to rise early so he could have his devotional time with the Word of God. When I first saw his Bible soon after we met, and saw the two year’s worth of notes (the time in which he had spent in Hammond, Indiana, trying to find out who he was and what he believed), he had so many notes in his wide-margined Bible that it was beyond anything I had ever seen. I was touched and impressed by that.

He was a man that if it was in the Bible, he believed and sought to practice it. It didn’t matter what it was … whether about brotherhood or other Anabaptist doctrines that were a bit new to him when we met. He embraced them. Because he believed in a literal practice of the Word of God, when he came upon the holy kiss and feetwashing, he embraced them and similar doctrines and they were no problem to him. If it was in the Bible, then it was in his life and with a passion he sought to practice them. His Baptist friends did not understand this at times and were intimidated or embarrassed by it, but he would often challenge them, “Is it in the Bible?”

Bro. Denny loved his family, and would begin to pray for the little one as soon as pregnancy was discovered, before it came into the world. He also loved the “remnant” people—those coming out of apostatizing churches— and had a heart for them and was quick to answer a phone call from anywhere if it was from someone from his Evangelical background who was reading the Bible and trying to find their way. I tended to minister more to people from my background, the Plain People, and he tended towards his background. But we often crossed over and this helped to balance us out.

But I must also say, and without any apologies, that Bro. Denny HATED iniquity. He was a hateful man, if I can say it that plain and boldly. He HATED iniquity! He hated sin. He hated the world.

I was often tremendously challenged as we went out to witness in the streets in the local fairs and places like that, and he would walk up to the professed “Christian” world that was there to enjoy the night on the town, and ask them whether they hated the world … and they didn’t know what to say in light of the fair and the rides and the gambling dens and the much food, etc. He HATED iniquity!

And he hated his past life. I remember him looking at the cover of a magazine, I believe it was Time or Newsweek, when Jim and Tammy Bakker’s sin and corruption came to light. He picked it up threw it back down, saying, “I can’t read this stuff; it’s defiling due to my past life.” That’s how he hated iniquity.

He also hated mediocrity. He hated complacency. He was a fervent man, and when he sold out to God, he gave it all he had. He HATED mediocrity. He pled against it, he prayed against it, he preached against it, he talked against it. It was always so refreshing to take a look at ourselves and see where we may have been slipping in material pursuits or anything when we had those types of conversations together.

He was a great visionary. I was that type of person myself, and what a joy it was to sit down and talk and dream together. In 1993 we purchased a tent and put together a trailer with three prayer rooms and would travel together preaching in the US and Canada. Later we did some separately, and also did some local tent meetings. We would alternate preaching. Afterwards, we would sit together and talk about what God was doing. In those days, much of our talk was positive—men were calling for help and men were responding and repenting and seeking victory over sin. There was a revival going on across the land—which we did not start, by the way, but was well on its way before we ever met—and a seeking after righteousness and practical Christianity as the mainline churches deteriorated into worldliness. In those days much of our talk was positive as we shared together.

But I also have to tell you that Bro. Denny had a period of grief. And if he would have been here these days, and if we would sit back in the office here or in some living room, and reminisce about what has happened and the people that have come through, there would be a deep grief on our brother’s heart. He was grieved at the departing of the church. He was grieved at the changes people made. He was grieved at the drift that was so obvious and evident, both on the outside and the inside.

The question I have at the close is, “Who is going to follow his faith?”

I don’t think he would be interested at all that you would pay your respects to his frame, his dead body. My plea is that you consider his faith, his example of life. And that grief can be turned into joy when he ends up meeting you across that great beyond.

1 Corinthians 15:26 says, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” That has been destroyed for Bro. Denny. He awaits the great resurrection day when his spirit shall unite with a new body and he will be entire and whole for all eternity.

If I were to put an epitaph upon his gravestone, it would be that which was said of John the Baptist:

He was a burning and shining light.


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

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Broken Clock Salvation

By Dean Taylor

Let no man deceive you with vain words. Ephesians 5:6
Certain men crept in unawares . . . turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. Jude 4

The funny thing about a broken clock is that it is perfectly right twice a day. Think about it … that old clock might have been dead for years, but nonetheless, two times a day its little rusty hands proudly proclaim the time as accurately as the space program’s best atomic clock. However, despite this brief momentary accuracy, for all practical purposes a broken clock is still worthless. And that’s a bit the way that salvation is commonly taught and preached these days. It’s often completely right for a moment…but by and large it is still broken.

Here’s what I mean … Modern Evangelicals are quick to point to the fact that to spend eternity with Christ we must be “born again.” In describing this necessity to be “born again,” they often highlight the holiness of God and sinfulness of man. They accentuate the fact that man is helpless to save himself and therefore totally at the mercy of God for grace and forgiveness.

Now, this is all very appropriate and even “accurate.” But much like the broken clock that is accurate only for a moment, this is usually where modern Evangelical salvation stops. It started out good, but it didn’t keep going. The result is a salvation that is reduced to a “decision” or a “prayer”—not a new life.
Explanations of salvation like these can leave the sinner standing there “broken” without a ticking heart. When salvation is explained this way the results can be devastating. Even the most sincere “walk down the aisle” or the most passionate “sinner’s prayer” is no substitute for Jesus’ words, “take up your cross daily and follow me.” Christianity is a life—not a one-time decision.

The Mass Murderer Goes to Heaven?

A few weeks ago the nation mourned over the news of yet one more homicidal catastrophe. This time a man named George Sodini from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania went into his sports gym with a loaded hand gun and savagely ended the lives of three women and injured nine others. Completing this fit of terror, the deranged killer finally turned the gun on himself and ended his own life as well.

Unfortunately, this type of tragedy is not unheard of on the landscape of modern America. What caught my attention in this case was that the killer left a journal. In his journal the killer mentioned the philosophy that enabled him to perform these terrible atrocities.

Aghast when I read it, I saw that Sodini claimed that his philosophy was the philosophy of modern American Evangelicalism—brought to its logical end.

The Journal


Writing a year before the murders, George Sodini wrote in his journal about his involvement in church. Speaking about the pastor of the church he attended for 13 years he said, “this guy teaches (and convinced me) you can commit mass murder then still go to heaven.”

Those words are chilling when you consider the consequences.

Skipping up a year to the day before the murder, George Sodini left what I consider his most disturbing journal entry. Most disturbing, because in this entry, Sodini articulated a modern American statement of faith—all too well. (The capital letters are all from Sodini’s own words):

“Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.”


Sodini’s case—I admit—is certainly extreme. The man was obviously disturbed. A reading of the rest of his journal demonstrates clearly that he was a troubled man. So to put the blame entirely on modern American Evangelicalism would seem a bit unfair.

But yet I wonder … could it have been different if Sodini would have been taught a fear of God rather than a license to sin? Could it have been different if he would have been told that a despicable lifestyle actually matters to God? Could it all have been different if he had been taught that a sincere faith demands a response toward God in the way of amended life? And most important to this discussion, I wonder…was Sodini’s response solely a twisted mind, or was it rather an extreme application of a bad theology, taken to its logical end?

“At least that is what I was told…”

What exactly did Sodini mean when he attempted to justify his innocence before God—even while intending to commit mass murder—adding “at least that is what I was told”?
• Who told George Sodini that a person could kill someone and not “lose their salvation”?
• Who told George Sodini that faith existed only in mental beliefs?
• Who told George Sodini that his actions did not matter to God?
• Who told George Sodini that “grace” was some kind of blanket forgiveness policy?
• Who came up with this strange doctrine?
If this was the teaching of some obscure cult somewhere in the world, it would have been bad enough. But tragically, what Sodini articulated in his journal—and ultimately put to practice in his life—is a theology that is proclaimed across tens of thousands of pulpits every day.

Where did this start?


During the Reformation of the 1500s, Martin Luther stood strong against the ceremonial-works religion of the Roman Catholics. The ideas of buying your way to heaven, praying to saints, and making pilgrimages to holy sites to earn your salvation were commonplace in his day. Luther fought against these things by arguing that salvation was “by grace through faith.” However, as often happens during times of debate, Luther reacted. He went from saying that salvation could not be obtained by works, to saying that works didn’t matter at all. By doing this, Luther made “faith” a purely mental concept. “Actions”, or rather “works of faith”, were seen by Luther as nonessentials.

Too Far

While I believe that Luther meant well, like the Gnostics of the early church before him he ultimately masterminded a Christianity that exists only in the mind. To be fair to Luther, he did at times teach that this mental faith should find its way to action. However, when it was all said and done, lifestyle to Luther was a mere bonus. Following Christ meant right thoughts about Christ, not actually following Christ in reality.

To give a graphic example of what I mean, concluding his thoughts in a revealing letter to a fellow minister, Luther said:

“No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner. “[1]

I think that very few Evangelicals today would ever say this kind of thing with such candor. But when I ponder the twisted faith of this mass killer George Sodini, what am I to think when I read Martin Luther’s words that a person cannot lose his salvation “even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day”?

Partial Truth

The scriptures plainly teach that we are saved “by grace through faith.” No self-respecting Christian argues that point. The problem comes by the fact that Luther and many others after him have redefined the terms. The terms “grace” and “faith” no longer mean what they used to. Today, “grace” is basically defined as forgiveness. Some may stretch it and use the phrase “unmerited favor,” but still at the end of the day, what they usually mean by that is simply forgiveness. The term “faith” has been tragically reduced to mean a mere mental assent to specific facts about God.

The Power of Grace

The Apostle Paul provided a nice balance when he wrote to the church at Ephesus about salvation. Warning about the danger of trusting in mere works to save them he said:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast…” [2]
But then continuing the sentence, he went right on to say:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. [3]
For Paul, salvation had a purpose. It was alive. It did something! Paul was passionate about what grace actually did in the life of the believer. When writing to his young disciple Titus, Paul spelled out a few of the things that he believed grace should accomplish. Pay close attention to what Paul told Titus that grace teaches us …

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. “[4]

Those are some powerful things that grace actually does. Much more than just forgiveness—grace is power!

Follow Me

In demonstrating what Christianity should be like, Jesus called a little child to him. He put the child in the middle of the crowd and said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. ” [5]

Apparently, Jesus regarded the theology of salvation as something very simple. So simple, that He said that we would need to be like little children in order to grasp it. I used to think that this simply meant that we needed to be pure-minded, innocent, loving, and carefree like children are. But that was before I had children of my own! And while I think that those qualities of childlikeness certainly are part of it, I think that there is more to the story—and this is it: children follow.

Children follow the good things I do, and unfortunately, they also follow the bad. As a matter of fact, I have found that I can “teach” them all I want, but what really affects their behavior is how I act. Children don’t see life in nuances of dogmas, creeds, theologies, algorithms, and flow charts. They simply watch, hear—and follow.

When I consider the conversion stories in the Gospels, I see the same thing. Jesus’ evangelism strategy was so simple that it was profound. More often than not, Jesus simply used two words—“follow Me.”
While those two words may be easy to say, they’re not at all easy to practice. As a matter of fact, in my own strength, they’re impossible. When I am confronted with this overwhelmingly simple command to “follow Christ,” I would be foolish to think that I could accomplish this in the power of my flesh. When I have tried to do this, I have fallen flat on my face.

Bussfertigkeit—Living Faith

In the early days of the 16th-century Radical Reformation, the topic of salvation was one of many issues that were taking center stage. The Anabaptists liked much of what they were hearing from the early Reformers such as Luther and Zwingli, but they soon noticed that something vitally important was missing. Like the broken clock, they saw that the salvation that Luther and Zwingli were preaching sounded good, but only for a moment. It was too often merely doctrinal, legal, or creedal: in essence, not alive.

The Anabaptists saw that humility before a holy God and thirst for God’s salvation was not just a momentary thing like joining the church, saying a prayer, or even walking an aisle—it was a way of life. To be saved by grace presupposed a continual life of living faith. The early Anabaptists felt salvation must go further than the head. They expected more from salvation than just new ideas and theology. The following letter from an early Anabaptist, struggling about his time among the Evangelicals of the 1500s, gives a glimpse of their position. He wrote:

“While yet in the national church, we obtained much instruction from the writings of Luther, Zwingli, and others, concerning the mass and other papal ceremonies, that they are vain. Yet we recognized a great lack as regards repentance, conversion, and the true Christian life. Upon these things my mind was bent. I waited and hoped for a year or two, since the minister had much to say of amendment of life, of giving to the poor, loving one another, and abstaining from evil. But I could not close my eyes to the fact that the doctrine which was preached and which was based on the Word of God, was not carried out. No beginning was made toward true Christian living, and there was no unison in the teaching concerning the things that were necessary.

“And although the mass and the images were finally abolished, true repentance and Christian love were not in evidence. Changes were made only as concerned external things. This gave me occasion to inquire further into these matters. Then God sent His messengers, Conrad Grebel and others, with whom I conferred about the fundamental teachings of the apostles and the Christian life and practice. I found them men who had surrendered themselves to the doctrine of Christ by “Bussfertigkeit” [repentance evidenced by fruits]. With their assistance we established a congregation in which repentance was in evidence by newness of life in Christ. “[6]

A changed life was the gift they saw promised to them in the scriptures, and by faith these Radicals would settle for nothing less. That’s not to say that the Radical Reformers believed in a salvation by works either. They felt that any work done for Christ must be a work of faith and charity; empty works were still empty works.

As could be expected, this emphasis on a changed life quickly opened them up to the criticism that they were trying to earn their own salvation—a claim they quickly and adamantly denied. When it came to “salvation by faith,” they warned that error lies on both sides of the debate.

Beware of the Scribes and the Pharisees

In a beautifully worded warning from one of the founders of the Radical Reformation, Michael Sattler cautioned that Christians must beware of both the Scribes and the Pharisees. The “Pharisees”, Sattler taught, typified the type of faith that they had when they were Roman Catholics. He said that just like the Pharisees of the Bible, the Roman Catholics were trying to earn their salvation by works of the Law. Therefore he cautioned that we must beware of this tendency to endeavor to earn our own salvation.
On the other hand, Sattler warned that the “Scribes” typified the Evangelicals. He gave the picture that Scribes teach beautiful things, write impressive books, and even preach magnificent sermons. However, like the Scribes of old, their salvation never penetrates into their lives. In other words, the Scribes spoke good things, but did not live them. “We must” Michael Sattler warned, “beware the Scribes and the Pharisees. ” [7]

Empty works are still empty works. And any works that we think will replace or add to the work of Christ are still worthless. But to separate mental faith from acts of faith is to completely miss the message of the whole Bible. From beginning to end, the Bible is full of stories of visible, touchable, workable, sweatable, bleedable faith.

The Epistle of Straw

The book of James plainly said that “Faith without works is dead.” So why is that statement so controversial? James did not say that our works added to the merits of Christ’s atoning work. James simply said that faithful actions are evident demonstrations of our faith. It is interesting to note that the “works” James mentioned in Chapter 2 are not works from the Old Testament Law, such as circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, or dietary regulations. Rather, the works that James mentioned were fruits that a person evidenced when he has genuine faith.

For instance, James describes the “works” of Abraham as the actions Abraham did when he was willing to sacrifice his son on the altar. This was not Abraham trusting in himself, rather, this was an act of faith. After mentioning Abraham’s touching story, James tried to persuade us to understand this sacred truth saying:

“Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2:22-24)

Why is this so scary to Evangelicals? Probably because this verse makes it absolutely clear that faith is something more than ideas and convictions in your head. Faith includes your body—your actions—or if I may use the word—your works. To dismiss the clarity of these statements, Martin Luther had the audacity to call the entire Epistle of James “An epistle of straw.” That should tell us something … frankly, it scares me.

You must be born again


None of these things can be accomplished by fakers. There is no shortcut to heaven. Empty works are no better than empty faith. So …
• If we are actually going to honor the name of God,
• If we are going to please Him and glorify Him with our lives,
• If we are going to follow in Jesus’ great big steps,
… then we must be born again.

New Wine—New Wineskins

Near the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus gave His charge to Matthew the tax collector and other sinners who were at Matthew’s house with those challenging words: “follow me.” [8] Right after this however, Mark recorded Jesus’ parable about becoming a new creation in the parable of old cloth and old wine skins.

“No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.” (Mark 2:21-22).

In other words, the Christ-following life is not something that you can just tack on to your old life. That’s not going to work. If you do try, it will break.


Jesus used the word “repent.” That means completely changing the way I want to go, and following His way. That’s more than just a little decision or a “sinner’s prayer”—that’s becoming a whole new creation. If I try to tack Christianity on to my nonrepentant old lifestyle—like the unshrunk cloth or old wineskin—it’s going to rip and burst!

When being a follower of Christ actually means to follow Christ, what an exciting life awaits! Just two words say it all —“follow Me.” That’s a living faith. That’s a salvation that is not just in my head—it’s real in my life—a ticking clock!

[1] Let Your Sins Be Strong: A Letter From Luther to Melanchthon Letter no. 99, 1 August 1521, From the Wartburg (Segment) Translated by Erika Bullmann Flores from: _Dr. Martin Luther’s Saemmtliche Schriften_ Dr, Johannes Georg Walch, Ed. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, N.D.), Vol. 15,cols. 2585-2590.
[2] Ephesians 2:8-9
[3] Ephesians 2:10
[4] Titus 2:11-15
[5] Matthew 18:1-4
[6] Taken from an unpublished manuscript in the Staatsarchiv des Kantons Bern, (Unnütze Papiere, Bd. 80), entitled Acta des Gesprächs zw¨schenn predicannten und Touffbrüderenn (1538), Copy in the Goshen College Library.
[7] The Legacy Of Michael Sattler p. 115-116.
[8] Mark 2:14

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (July/August/September 2009), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

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A Desperate Appeal for Modesty

By Adoniram Judson

Dear Sisters in Christ,
Excuse my publicly addressing you. The necessity of the case is my only apology. Whether you will consider it a sufficient apology for the sentiments of this letter, unfashionable, I confess, and perhaps unpalatable, I know not. We are sometimes obliged to encounter the hazard of offending those whom of all others we desire to please. Let me throw myself at once on your mercy, dear sisters, allied by national consanguinity, professors of the same holy religion, fellow pilgrims to the same happy world. Pleading these endearing ties, let me beg you to regard me as a brother, and to listen with candor and forbearance to my honest tale.
In raising up a church of Christ in this heathen land (Burma), and in laboring to elevate the minds of the female converts to the standard of the Gospel, we have always found one chief obstacle in that principle of vanity, that love of dress and display (I beg you will bear with me), which has, in every age and in all countries, been a ruling passion of the fair sex, as the love of riches, power, and fame has characterized the other. That obstacle lately became more formidable, through the admission of two or three fashionable females into the church, and the arrival of several missionary sisters, dressed and adorned in that manner which is too prevalent in our beloved native land. On my meeting the church, after a year’s absence, I beheld an appalling profusion of ornaments, and saw that the demon of vanity was laying waste the female department. At that time I had not maturely considered the subject, and did not feel sure what ground I ought to take. I apprehended, also, that I should be unsupported, and perhaps opposed by some of my coadjutors. I confined my efforts, therefore, to private exhortation, and with but little effect. Some of the ladies, out of regard to their pastor, took off their necklaces and ear-ornaments before they entered the chapel, tied them up in a corner of their handkerchiefs, and on returning, as soon as they were out of sight of the Mission-house, stopped in the middle of the street to array themselves anew.
On the Mission Field
In the mean time, I was called to visit the Karens, a wild people, several days’ journey to the north of Maulmain, Burma. Little did I expect there to encounter the same enemy, in those “wilds, horrid and dark with overshadowing trees.” But I found that he had been there before me, and reigned with a peculiar sway from time immemorial. On one Karen woman I counted between twelve and fifteen necklaces, of all colors, sizes, and materials. Three was the average. Brass belts above the ankles, neat braids of black hair tied below the knees, rings of all sorts on the fingers, bracelets on the wrists and arms, long instruments of some metal, perforating the lower part of the ear, by an immense aperture, and reaching nearly to the shoulders; fancifully constructed bags, enclosing the hair, and suspended from the back part of the head—not to speak of the ornamental parts of their clothing—these constituted the fashions and the ton of the Karenesses. The dress of the female converts was not essentially different from that of their countrywomen. I saw that I was brought into a situation that precluded all retreat—that I must fight or die.
For a few nights, I spent some sleepless hours, distressed by this and other subjects, which will always press upon the heart of a missionary in a new place. I considered the spirit of the religion of Jesus Christ. I opened to 1 Tim. 2: 9, and read those words of the inspired apostle; “I will also that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” I asked myself, can I baptize a Karen woman in her present attire? No. Can I administer the Lord’s Supper to one of the baptized in that attire? No. Can I refrain from enforcing the prohibition of the apostle? Not without betraying the trust which I have received. I considered that the question concerned not the Karens only, but the whole Christian world; that its decision would involve a train of unknown consequences; that a single step would lead me into a long and perilous way.
Again I considered Maulmein and the other stations; I considered the state of the public mind at home. But “what is that to thee? follow thou me,” was the continual response, and weighed more than all. I renewedly offered myself to Christ, and prayed for strength to go forward in the path of duty, come life or death, come praise or reproach, supported or deserted, successful or defeated in the ultimate issue.
Soon after coming to this conclusion, a Karen woman offered herself for baptism. After the usual examination, I inquired whether she could give up her ornaments for Christ. It was an unexpected blow! I explained the spirit of the gospel. I appealed to her own consciousness of vanity. I read her the apostle’s prohibition. She looked again and again at her handsome necklace, (she wore but one,) and then, with an air of modest decision that would adorn, beyond all outward ornaments, any of my sisters whom I have the honour of addressing, she took it off, saying, “I love Christ more than this.” The news began to spread. The Christian women made but little hesitation. A few others opposed, but the work went on.
At length the evil which I most dreaded came on me. Some of the Karen men had been to Maulmein, and seen what I wished they had not. And one day, when we were discussing the subject of ornaments, one of the Christians came forward in my face, and declared, that at Maulmein he had actually seen one of the great female teachers wearing a string of gold beads around her neck! Lay down this paper, dear sisters, and sympathize a little with your fallen missionary. Was it not a hard case? Was it not cruel for that sister thus to smite down to the dust her poor brother, who, without that blow, was hardly able to keep his ground? But she knew it not. She was not aware of the mischief she was doing. However, though cast down, I was not destroyed; though sorely bruised and wounded, I endeavored to maintain the warfare as well as I could; after some conflict the enemy fled the field, and, when I left those parts, the female converts were, generally speaking, arrayed in modest apparel.
On arriving at Maulmein, Burma and partially recovering from a fever, which I had contracted in the Karen woods, the first thing I did was to crawl out to the house of the patroness of the gold beads. To her I related my adventures—to her commiseration, I commended my grief. With what ease and truth, too, could that sister reply, “Notwithstanding these beads, I dress more plain than most ministers’ wives, and professors of religion, in our native land. These beads are the only ornament I wear; they were given me when quite a child, by a dear mother, whom I never expect to see again” (another hard case). She enjoined it on me never to part with them as long as I lived, but to wear them as a memorial of her.
Oh, ye Christian mothers, what a lesson you have before you! Can you, dare you, give injunctions to your daughters, directly contrary to apostolic commands? But, to the honor of my sister, be it recorded, that when she understood the merits of the case, and the mischief done by such an example, off went the gold beads; and she gave decisive proof that she loved Christ more than father or mother. Her example, united with the efforts of the rest of us at this station, is beginning to exercise a redeeming influence in the female department of the church.
But, notwithstanding these favorable signs, nothing, really nothing, is yet done!—And why? This mission and all others must necessarily be sustained by continual supplies of missionaries, male and female, from the mother-country. Your sisters and daughters will continually come out, to take the place of those who are removed by death, and to occupy numberless stations, still unoccupied. And, when they arrive, they will be dressed in their usual way, as Christian women at home are dressed. And the female converts will run around them, and gaze upon them with the most prying curiosity, regarding them as the freshest representations of the Christian religion, from that land where it flourishes in all its purity and glory. And when they see the gold and jewels pendent from their ears, the beads and chains encircling their necks—the finger rings set with diamonds and rubies—the rich variety of ornamental hair dress—“the mantles and the wimples and the crisping pins,” (see the rest in Isaiah, 3rd chap.) Then they will cast a bitter, reproachful, triumphant glance at their old teachers, and spring with fresh avidity to repurchase and resume their long-neglected elegancies.
The cheering news will fly up to the Dahgyne, the Laing-bwai, and the Salwen. The Karenesses will reload their necks, and ears, and arms, and ankles. And when, after another year’s absence, I return, and take my seat before the Burmese or the Karen church, I shall behold the demon of vanity enthroned in the centre of the assembly, more firmly than ever, grinning defiance to the prohibitions of apostles, and the exhortations of us who would fain be their humble followers.
And thus you, my dear sisters, while sitting quietly by your firesides, or repairing devoutly to your places of worship, do, by your example, spread the poison of vanity through all the rivers, and mountains, and wilds of this far distant land; and, while you are sincerely and fervently praying for the upbuilding of the Redeemer’s kingdom, are inadvertently building up that of the devil.
If, on the other hand, you divest yourselves of all meretricious ornaments, your sisters and daughters who come hither will be divested of course; the further supplies of vanity and pride will be cut off; and, the churches at home being kept pure, the churches here will be pure also.
Dear sisters, having finished my tale, and therein exhibited the necessity under which I lay of addressing you, I beg leave to submit a few topics to your candid and prayerful consideration.
1. Motives
Let me appeal to conscience, and inquire, what is the real motive for wearing ornamental and costly apparel? Is it not the desire of setting off one’s person to the best advantage, and of exciting the love and admiration of others? Is not such dress calculated to gratify self-love, to cherish the sentiments of vanity and pride? And is it not the nature of those sentiments to acquire strength from indulgence? Do such motives and sentiments comport with the meek, humble, self-denying religion of Jesus Christ? I would here respectfully suggest, that these questions will not be answered so faithfully in the midst of company as when quite alone kneeling before God.
2. Scripture
Consider the words of the apostle quoted above from 1 Tim. 2: 9; “I will also that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” I do not quote a similar command recorded in 1 Peter 3: 3, because the verbal construction is not quite so definite, though the import of the two passages is the same. But cannot the force of these passages be evaded? Yes, and nearly every command in Scripture can be evaded, and every doctrinal assertion perverted, plausibly and handsomely, if we set about it in good earnest. But preserving the posture above alluded to, with the inspired volume spread open at the passage in question, ask your hearts, in simplicity and godly sincerity, whether the meaning is not just as plain as the sun at noon-day. Shall we then bow to the authority of an inspired apostle, or shall we not? From that authority, shall we appeal to the prevailing usages and fashions of the age? If so, please to recall the missionaries you have sent to the heathen—for the heathen can vindicate all their superstitions on the same ground.
3. Pride
In the posture you have assumed, look up and behold the eye of your benignant Saviour ever gazing upon you, with the tenderest love—upon you, his daughters, his spouse, wishing, above all things, that you would yield your hearts entirely to him, and become holy as he is holy, rejoicing when he sees one and another accepting his pressing invitation, and entering the more perfect way; for, on that account, he will be able to draw such precious souls into a nearer union with himself, and place them at last in the higher spheres, where they will receive and reflect more copious communications of light from the great Fountain of light, the uncreated Sun.
4. Future Happiness
Anticipate the happy moment, “hastening on all the wings of time”, when your joyful spirits will be welcomed into the assembly of the spirits of the just made perfect. You appear before the throne of Jehovah; the approving smile of Jesus fixes your everlasting happy destiny; and you are plunging into “the sea of life and love unknown; without a bottom or a shore.” Stop a moment—look back on yonder dark and miserable world that you have left; fix your eye on the meager, vain, contemptible articles of ornamental dress, which you once hesitated to give up for Christ, the King of glory; and on that glance decide the question instantly and forever.
Surely, you can hold out no longer. You cannot rise from your knees in your present attire. Thanks be to God, I see you taking off your necklaces and earrings, tearing away your ribbons, and ruffles, and superfluities of headdress, and I hear you exclaim, “What shall we do next?—An important question, deserving serious consideration. The ornaments you are removing, though useless, and worse than useless, in their present state, can be so disposed of as to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, relieve the sick, enlighten the dark minded, disseminate the Holy Scriptures, spread the glorious gospel throughout the world. Little do the inhabitants of a free Christian country know of the want and distress endured by the greater part of the inhabitants of the earth. Still less idea can they form of the awful darkness which rests upon the great mass of mankind in regard to spiritual things. During the years that you have been wearing these useless ornaments, how many poor creatures have been pining in want! How many have languished and groaned on beds of abject wretchedness! How many children have been bred up in the blackest ignorance, hardened in all manner of iniquity! How many immortal souls have gone down to hell, with a lie in their right hand, having never heard of the true God and the only Savior!
Some of these miseries might have been mitigated; some poor wretch have felt his pain relieved; some widow’s heart been made to sing for joy; some helpless orphan have been taught in the Sabbath school, and trained up for a happy life here and hereafter. The Holy Bible and valuable tracts might have been far more extensively circulated in heathen lands had you not been afraid of being thought unfashionable, and not “like other folks”; had you not preferred adorning your persons, and cherishing the sweet seductive feelings of vanity and pride.
O Christian sisters, believers in God, in Christ, in an eternal heaven, and an eternal hell, can you hesitate, and ask what you shall do? Bedew those ornaments with the tears of contrition; consecrate them to the cause of charity; hang them on the cross of your dying Lord. Delay not an instant. Hasten with all your might, if not to make reparation for the past, at least to prevent a continuance of the evil in future.
Two Principles
And for your guidance allow me to suggest two fundamental principles: the one based on 1 Tim. 2: 9, “all ornaments and costly dress to be disused”: the other on the law of general benevolence—the avails of such articles, and the savings resulting from the plain dress system, to be devoted to purposes of charity. Some general rules in regard to dress, and some general objects of charity, may be easily ascertained and settled. Minor points must, of course, be left to the conscience of each individual. Yet free discussion will throw light on many points at first obscure. Be not deterred by the suggestion, that in such discussions you are conversant about small things. Great things depend on small; and, in that case, things which appear small to short-sighted man are great in the sight of God. Many there are who praise the principle of self-denial in general, and condemn it in all its particular applications, as too minute, scrupulous, and severe. Satan is well aware, that if he can secure the minute units, the sum total will be his own. Think not anything small, which may have a bearing upon the kingdom of Christ, and upon the destinies of eternity. How easy to conceive, from many known events, that the single fact of a lady’s divesting herself of a necklace for Christ’s sake may involve consequences which shall be felt in the remotest parts of the earth, and in all future generations to the end of time—yea, stretch away into a boundless eternity, and be a subject of praise millions of ages after this world and all its ornaments are burned up.
False Humility
Beware of another suggestion made by weak and erring souls, who will tell you that there is more danger of being proud of plain dress and other modes of self-denial, than of fashionable attire and self-indulgence. Be not ensnared by this last, most finished, most insidious device of the great enemy. Rather believe that he who enables you to make a sacrifice is able to keep you from being proud of it. Believe that he will kindly permit such occasions of mortification and shame as will preserve you from the evil threatened. The severest part of self-denial consists in encountering the disapprobation, the envy, the hatred, of one’s dearest friends. All who enter the strait and narrow path, in good earnest, soon find themselves in a climate extremely uncongenial to the growth of pride.
The gay and fashionable will, in many cases, be the last to engage in this holy undertaking. But let none be discouraged on that account. Christ has seldom honored the leaders of worldly fashion, by appointing them leaders in his cause. Wait not, therefore, for the fashionable to set an example; wait not for one another; listen not to the news from the next town; but let every individual go forward, regardless of reproach, fearless of consequences. The eye of Christ is upon you.
The Final Day
Death is hastening to strip you of your ornaments, and to turn your fair forms into corruption and dust. Many of those for whom this letter is designed will be hid in the grave before it can ever reach their eyes. We shall all soon appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, to be tried for our conduct, and to receive the things done in the body. When placed before that awful bar, in the presence of that Being, whose “eyes are as a flame of fire,” and whose irrevocable fiat will fix you forever in heaven or in hell, and mete out the measure of your everlasting pleasures and pains, what course will you wish you had taken? Will you then wish, that in defiance of his authority you had adorned your mortal bodies with gold, and precious stones, and costly attire, cherishing self-love, vanity, and pride? Or, will you wish that you had chosen a life of self-denial, renounced the world, taken up the cross daily and followed him? And as you will then wish you had done, do now.
Dear Sisters, your affectionate brother in Christ,
October, 1831