« AnteriorContinuar »
may be found in the Preface to the Memoirs of the illustrious Aroustr's HERNAN FRANCKE, the Translator of which, in presenting the work to the public, uses the following language: “In reference to the execution of the work, it is to be stated, that the attempt has been, to present the thought rather than the peculiar form of expression, of the original. As an apology for some of the defects of the composition, it may be added, that the best scholars have found it difficult to write with perspicuity and simplicity, with a German model before them."
· Besides, justice to the long departed Author, Menno Simox, demands that his own ideas be presented, and no other substituted, as would have to be the case in a too free translation. In addition to the many persecutions and afflictions which he had to endure, his Doctrines and views were always misrepresented, through the malice of his persecutors, and here, I hope, I have faithfully given his religious opinions, so that the world may see the malice and falsity of that inystic Babylon, which could not be satisfied by the destruction of life alone, but which strove by slander to blast the fair reputation of those who would not bow to her idolatry, abomination and partake in her crime.
In the German copy, from which this Translation is made, there were 'inarginal notes, many of which were unimportant, being but repetitions of the same words which appear in the text; after proceeding nearly half through with the Translation, by consent of the Publisher, I omitted some of them; because they tended rather to embarrass and interrupt the reader, than to render him any assistance. I added a few notes myself, and designated them by the word, Translalor.
By way of introduction to the following pages, I deem it necessary to direct the attention of the reader to the PUBLISHER'S PREFACE, which was written in the German language, and Translated by B. H**r, and handed to me for insertion; and also to call his attention to the time and circumstances in which Menno Simon lived. Surrounded by that dark gloom of superstition and licentiousness, the result of popular ignorance and clerical debauchery, he stood forth, and braved the dangers of opposition to the corrupt secular and ecclesiastical power, which had so long lorded over the consciences, destroyed the lives, and misled the souls of men. He had to contend not only with papistical superstitions ; but with the crrors of the followers of Muntzer, commands of men which made void the law of God, the doctrines of polygamy, king, &c. &c. The political and ecclesiastical condition of Europe, in his day, waş such that none, unless endued with a martyr's spirit, dare stand forth and dispense the pure gos, el of Christ to dying men.
When we look back to those days of darkness, when cities and countries were deluged in blood, when thousands and tens of thousands fell to glut the rage of faction, and the zeal of superstition, well may we view, with veneration, the small, but “determined band,” who amid sueh scenes of death, "walked by faith, and not by sight,” who stood firm, based upon the “ Rock Of Ages, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. Among the number of those, who in that day, braved the “storms of sorrow,” prominently stood the venerable Author of this book. After having himself participated in the idolatry of popal Rome, he was well calculated, like Paul, when the scales had fallen from his eyes, to become a chosen vessel of grace to dispense the word of life, to those around him.
With what gratitude should our hearts be filled, to the Parent of all good, when we reflect on former times, and contrast them with our own! Our common Benefactor has, in his infinite mercy, through his servants, broken those chains of darkness, which had so long fettered much of the world. Persecution and bloodshed, the concomitants of ignorance and superstition, are receding from view, whilst the gospel of peace, grace and mercy, like the sun in the firmament, sheds its benign rays, on all who willingly seek the light.
I. DANIEL RUPP. Near Mechanicsburg, Pa, March 25th, 1835.
PUBLISHER'S PREFACE. .
Beloved reader: We live in a period of time, in which many writings are circulated among the people, which, generally, are more injurious than beneficial, since the greater part contain not the pure and uncorrupted truth of the gospel, although it is the only rule, in accordance with which every thing should be regulated, written and taught, as St. Paul testifies : Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.(Gal. 1.) If its directions. were followed, there would not be so many scorners of the christian religion; for, by the pious, virtuous, and godly life of its professors, they would be convinced, that something true and substantial is in its composition ; as Paul teaches, that the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth. (Rom. 1.) Yea, it is so powerful an operator in all those who truly believe, that their hard hearts become softened, renewed, and enlivened, so that, as they were formerly carnally minded, so they have now become spiritual and heavenly ininded ; and as they have been proud, imperious, envious, and implacable against those, who may have aggrieved them, so they are now humble, mild, condescending, patient, peaceable, and forgiving towards their opponents, according to the example of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the instructions of his word. But this salutary influence is to be found and perceived in so small a degree among the present christians, that the reverse is much more in vogue, from which circumstance, it, consequently, "arises that atheism, the rejection of all revealed religion advances with such rapid strides. For, say its advocates, were the professors of christianity firm believers in the truth of scripture, they would conduct their lives according to its tenor, as Christ and his apostles have inculcated; but since this conformity is but seldom evinced, they conclude it to be the work of man, and a fabric of imposture, and exclaim : Our bonds are in twain ond we are free, we will none of us go without his part of our voluptuousness, for this is our portion, &c. Such things do they imagine, and are deceived; for their own wickedness hath blinded them, so that, the mysteries of God they know not; neither hope they for the wages of righteousness, nor discern a reward for blameless souls. (Wis. 2.) Oh! how deplorable that so many profess Christ with the lips, but yet by their works deny both him and his doctrine, whence, in the eyes of God, they are not better than the manifest scorner of his word, although comforting themselves, and being comforted by their unregenerated preachers wiih the belief that they are christians, because they have an outward profession.
The tark vapours of false and perverted doctrine, have so much obscured the clear light of the gospel, that, oftimes, sincere souls scarcely know how to distinguish between right and wrong. For this reason, I and my brethren, out of love to mankind, and particularly to serious minds, have been induced to publish, in the English language, in which they never before appeared, the works of the zealous and heaven devoted Menno Si1543, he was declared an outlaw, and a sum of money was offered for his body, at the same time, that it was forbidden under pain of death to har. bor him. Even criminals and murderers, as historians show, were promised the emperor's pardon, in case they would deliver him into prison ; so that he was continually in danger of his life. But he was not discouraged, on the contrary, he untiringly prosecuted the labours which God imposed upon him. The hand of the Lord conducted him, until, at length, after long combatting, and great victory, he terminated his career at Fresenburg, and died the death of the blessed, January the 31st, in the year 1561, at the age of 66 years. Beloved reader, in our author's writings, you will find, if impartial, with what simplicity and energy he proclaimed the gospel, in its correct sense and scope ; how he defended Christ the crucified, and his saving doctrine, against false principles and perverted teachers, with whom he dealt sharply and keenly, and represented to them the dreadful judgments of God with which the scriptures threaten all deluding ministers, and which he well perceived would be their lot if they were not converted. Indeed, he might well say with the apostle, he knew none according to the flesh, "he reproved threatened and exhorted,” as Paul teaches, without respect to persons, he, sought not good will or honor among men, but instead, his zeal in the Lord's house was so strong and ardent that every thing besides was deemed of no importance ; he showed every one that there was no other way to happiness, than through self-knowledge and true self-denial and the acceptation of Christ through faith, together with his righteousness, which he merited for us, out of pure love, grace and mercy by his imod and death. He further taught, that whosoever believes this, and experiences this love and elevated grace, in his soul, will, through them be induced to imitate Christ in every thing, and to place himself with childlike obedience, under the guidance of his doctrine and commandments ; but, those, on the contrary, who are not obedient to him in all that he taught, and follow not daily after him, plainly evince, that they, likewise, are not partakers with him—with his cross and death, and have not in possession that righteousness, which is acceptable to God, or if they had received a portion, “they have again lost it by deviating from the holy commandment.” Hence, he never fiattered such with hopes of peace, nor comforted them with soft pillows; but, with the force of scripture, spread before then, the eternal doom, and destruction of their miserable wuls, so that, they might, possibly, reflect, and be converted ere it would be too late.
And since I sincerely believe, and, from the word of God acknowledge, that therein is contained the pure and unadulterated truth, according to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures ; and as I myself, by the grace of God, have decived much benetit from the reading of this book, it is my hope, that to those who, in these confused times, when unbelief, universalism, the despising of God and his word, and the denial of our Lord, Jesus Christ, some by their lips and others by their conduct, is so extensively prevalent, impartially read and compare it with the word of God, it may be serviceable for their illumination and the advancement of their salvation. Yea, dear realer, in the writings of this zealous and godly man, you will find how sincerely and fearlessly he exhibited to every one the powerful and undefiled truth. He feared neither emperor nor king, neither high nor low, neither pope nor monks, neither life nor death. He sought the glory of God, and he exerted himself to extricate poor mankind from the darkness of popery and deliver them from all false doctrine. "In zeal for God, and his rightful worship, he was not inferior to Josiah, king of Judah. (2 kings 23.) With the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, (Eph. 6) he went forth, breaking down the strange altars, and overthrowing the inventions of papacy with which the ignorant people from time to time were burdened, and the errors, which Luther and other reformers overlooked, he laid aside, namely the human instituted baptism of infants with other erroneous usages. Thus he again introduced and built up the true and apostolic service of God, so that a large people, as a pure and chaste virgin, were led to Christ, and many erring sheep were gathered together, which formerly were compelled to drink the impure water of false doctrine, which their shepherds defiled ; and thus were founded many communities, in many places in Friesland, Holland, Groningen, East Friesland, Brabant, and on the bor. der of the Baltic Sea, and likewise in Germany, in the Palatinate, in Alsacs, Bavaria, Suabia, Switzerland, Austria, Moravia, &c. The word of the Lord spread itself by his instrumentality, so powerfully, in defiance of all the tyranny and persecution of priests and governments, that it was evidently seen, how the strong hand of God, whom he glorified, rescued him froin the power of his enemies. For by a bloody decree issued in
Further, it will easily be perceived by all those, into whose hands this book may fall, and who will read it with consideration, that the doctrine which I profess and teach, and that, of this godly reformer, entirely agree. He acknowledges Christ as the only foundation of our salvation ; so likewise do I. He confesses, that he who has thus found Christ, will follow him in all that he has commanded, (Matt. 28) will be of the same mind as he was, (Philip. 2, 5) he will love his enemies, do good to those that bate him, overcoming evil with gooil, and thus heap coals of fire on their heads.. (Matt. 5 ; Rom. 12.) The same do I inculcate, as my writings plainly show. He teaches, that in the kingdom of Christ, and in his church, no other sword is used, than the sword of the spirit, and no other regulation, than the regulation of Christ and his apostles, and that this church can not be kept in a state of purity, without bringing to bear, apon all ungodly scorners, and perverse and apostate members, all apostolic excommunication ; and that, then it is necessary to avoid the intercourse, without respect to persons with them, so as to induce a feeling of shame and self reproach ; all of which he clearly points out in this work, and which I also confess. Menno exhorted all believers, with scripture testimony, to abjure all false doctrine, to refrain from hearing corrupt teachers, to shun them, and separate themselves from them, as Christ's doctrins sets forth, (Matt. 7; Jer. 23, 16-; John 10 ; Rom. 16, 17, 18; I Tim. 6, 5; 2 Tim. 3, 5; Tit. 3, 10; Rev. 2, 2.) This I also teach, and am fully persuaded, that where these instructions of Christ and his apostles are not heeded, but the faithful, after being enlightened, and having percieved the great treachery of the faithless shepherds, yet to plcase them, listen to them, there will not long be a communion in spirit, nor a unity of inind. For the leaven of misleading principles, will speedily insinuate itself, and confuse their minds ; so that, one will be. lieve one thing, and another something different ; as the melancholy evidence of experience indicates amongst all sects. O how did the churches, in our author's time, who were taughtand regenerated out of the word of God, and gathcred from all sects by him unto one flock, so faithfully adhere to the word of God in this matter ! They sacrificed fortune, body, and life, in preference to going into a meeting, where the word of God was not proclaimed in its purity; for which reason, also, many thousands had to suffer the most dreadful tortures, or were forced to go into miserable banishment
These people were, by their persecutors, called anabaptists, because they considered no baptism apostolic, except its reception was grounded upon true faith, according to the injunctions of Christ and his apostles. Afterwards, they were named, after Menno, as being his fellow believers, Menonites, which name they have ever since borne to the present time; but how far they have deviated, from time to time, from the doctrine of this zealous and godly Reformer, their fruits plainly exhibit to every one,
It is, indeed, mournful to contemplate, that, so great has been their de generacy, as to make nuinbers, teachers not excepted, unwilling to assist in giving those his works to the world ; but, at the same, I am in hopes, that a great proportion are innocent, in this respect, and such are exempted from the charge ; and, I have reason to believe that many are kept so much in darkness, that they are unacquainted with the writings of Menno, and imagine, that they are in entire agreement with what he taught, and consequently, they inter, that we have, as is frequently said, originated something new. But I have the pleasing confidence, that when they im. partially read this work, which now makes its appearance both in English and German, and properly contemplate it in conjunction with scripture, and compare it with my writings, they will find that we insist on the same principles, and profess the same foundation of faith according to scripture. I must confess, however, that I feel myself far behind him, and, in my own eyes, cannot claim equality with him, sinee, although,