The New Birth
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is
I Corinthians 3:11
by J.C. Wenger
Menno Simons wrote The New Birth about the year 1537, and "diligently revised and enlarged and corrected" it about 1550. The first edition was published in the Eastern dialect of the Baltic coastal region while the latter, which is here translated from the Opera Omina Theologica of Menno, 1681, fol. 121-32, was in Holland Dutch and appeared in the Complete Works of 1871, I, 165-78. The booklet is pervaded with a strong ethical flavor and an evangelistic zeal; perhaps one could say it has the ring of the Old Testament prophets in its stern denunciation of sin, and its demand for heart religion in place of mere outward ceremonies. Menno fairly bristles as he denounces masses, matins, vespers, confessionals, pilgrimages, holy water, and other human inventions. He warns that unless men are born again their portion eternally will be the lake of fire and brimstone. What people need is to die and rise with Christ, to be spiritually circumcised, to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, to put on Christ. In strong language, in the midst of which he twice cries, "Help Lord," Menno depicts the life and behavior of those who are still living an unregenerate life. He also portrays beautifully the heart and behavior of those who really are in Christ: they follow absolutely the life of love, do not retaliate, but feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, are children of peace who learn war no longer. So as to be perfectly understood Menno patiently explains the sword, marriage, citizenship, kingdom, and doctrine of those who belong to Christ. He puts emphasis on proper baptism, Lordís Supper, and excommunication. Mennoís message is "Repent without delay! For nothing avails before God except the new creature, a faith which worketh by love, and the keeping of Godís commandments."
The full title of the work is: The New Creature: A Fair and Fundamental Instruction from the Word of the Lord, Urgently Admonishing All Men Who Call Themselves Christians to Seek the Heavenly Birth and the New Creature, Without Which No Man Who Has Come to Years of Understanding Is or Can be a True Christian. Diligently revised and Enlarged and Corrected by Menno Simons. Following the name of Menno Simons on the title page of The New Birth in the Opera of 1681 is the date 1556, which was evidently the edition incorporate therein. But it is believed that this was a reprint of an edition of about 1550.
The New Birth has greater vigor than any of his other writings prior to the Foundation of 1539.
The New Birth
Attend to my words, all people, and understand, all ye who think yourselves to be Christians, and with boldness boast of the grace of the Lord, His merits, flesh, blood, cross, kingdom, and death, even though there is found among you neither Christian faith, brotherly love, repentance, the true use of the sacraments of Christ, the pure doctrine, nor the irreproachable godly life which is of God, to which the Scriptures admonish. Nor do we find the true religion, evangelical disposition or obedience, but everywhere nothing but ugly, erring unbelief and undisciplined carnal life; false doctrine, falsely adorned sacraments, a satanic heart and mind, an accursed, heathenish, idolatry of Christís name; blind, bloodthirsty tyranny, unmerciful cruelty against all the children of God, yes, manifest, preserve disobedience and despising of all the words of Christ and His Holy Ghost, as may be very plainly perceived and seen throughout the world.
In order that you may comfort yourselves no longer with such false and vain hopes contrary to all Scriptures and to your eternal damnation, and may not vainly boast in the afore-mentioned riches and glory of the children of God in the kingdom of Christ, His grace, merits, flesh, blood, cross, death, and promises, which do not as yet belong to you since you are altogether earthly, carnal, and devilishly minded, reject Christ and do not keep His Spirit, Word, and example, without which no one can be a Christian; therefore I have undertaken through the merciful grace of the Lord as much as is in my power to point out very briefly from the trustworthy, powerful, holy apostles in this my epistle, who are and who are not in possession of the grace of God, the afore-mentioned gifts, merits, and promises of Christ.
Tell me, dearly beloved, where and when did you read in the Scriptures, the true witness of the Holy Ghost and criterion of our consciences, that the unbelieving, disobedient, carnal man, the adulterous, immoral, drunken, avaricious, idolatrous, and pompous man has one single promise of the kingdom of Christ and His church, yes, part or communion in His merits, death, and blood? I tell you the truth, nowhere and never do we read it in the Scriptures. But thus it is written by Paul: For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die. Adulterers, whoremongers, perverts, effeminate, unclean, idolaters, drunkards, proud, avaricious, hateful persons, betrayers, and those who shed innocent blood; thieves, murders, and those who know no mercy, those disobedient to God and Christ, will not inherit the kingdom of God unless the repent. Yes, their portion will be in the fiery lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
Behold, worthy reader, hear Godís irrevocable sentence and judgement as pronounced upon all who live after the flesh, no matter who it is, whether emperor or king, duke or earl, baron, knight or squire, noble or commoner, priest or monk, learned or unlearned, rich or poor, man or woman, bond or free. All who live after the flesh must forever remain under the just sentence and eternal wrath of God; otherwise the whole Scriptures are untrue.
Therefore the poor, ignorant people are comforted in vain with masses, matins, vespers, confessionals, pilgrimages, and holy water, and what is more, with Christís grace, death, and blood. The Word stands unshaken: For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; for to be carnally reminded is death. Therefore I advise and entreat you all together to heed Christ Jesus, who is sent to us as a witness of the truth from heaven. For thus says He, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. At another place: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Faithful reader, take heed; these words are not invented or instituted by man, nor are they resolved and decreed by any council. But they are the dependable, precious Word which the Son of God, Christ Jesus, brought to us from the mouth of the Father, and declared unto pious Nicodemus, the scribe, with a dual oath. The Word is powerful and cleat and has reference not merely to Nicodemus, but to all the children of Adam who have come to the years of understanding. But alas, it is so obscured by the ugly, leavenous dung of human commands, statues, and glosses, that scarcely one or two is found in a thousand who have caught the true sense and meaning of the heavenly birth, to say nothing of the active nature, power, properties, and fruits of it. Yes, they have pushed it so far with their philosophic cleverness and man-made holiness that the eternal Wisdom of God, Christ Jesus eternally blessed, is banished as a poor, senseless fool out of the house of His honor, which is His church, with His Holy Ghost, Word, baptism, Supper, divine worship, excommunication, and irreproachable example. And the man of sin, the son of perdition, is placed in His Stead with his vicious doctrines, idolatrous infant baptism and supper, with his impure purifications and promises, with his churches, convents, priests, monks, masses, matins, vespers, holy water, icons, pilgrimages, purgatory, vigils, confessions, absolutions, etc. All of these are nothing but the doctrines and commands of men, proposed contrary to the Scriptures, an accursed idolatry and abomination, an open corruption of the Lordís death and sacrifice, a despising of the New Testament or the covenant which was sealed by the innocent blood of the Lamb; a rending of the saving ordinances of Christ, of doctrine, baptism, Supper, life, and separation, abundantly testified to in the Scriptures; ordinances which He taught in this world with incontrovertible clearness and power by the Commandment of His Father, and left behind for His children in His Word. None other can be in eternity established so as to stand before Him.
In a word, writers and learned ones have little by little so corrupted everything through their counsel, decretals, and statues, with all the tyranny and violence of the great, that there is (help, Lord) scarcely an article entire of all that Christ and His holy apostles taught. All the afore-mentioned abominations together with the ungodly, carnal life of the world I call to witness. Nevertheless, they want to be called the holy Christian church, and he that admonishes them in sincere pure love with the spirit and the Word of the Lord, must be their accursed Anabaptist and heretic. I tell you again, they want to be the Christian church, though it is evident that in all their actions they are not Christians, but carnal, proud, avaricious, gluttonous, lewd, drunken, idolatrous, blind heathen. And what is worse, some of them are unmerciful, murderous, cruel and bloody devils, for many of their works are done according to the will of the devil. We may with propriety complain of this matter, for the righteous judgment is come upon them so that they are utterly past conversion and little that is salutary remains with them.
Oh, how lamentable is the fair vineyard desolated and how sadly are its branches withered, its walls broken down! The destroying foxes have taken over, the clouds are dry and give rain no longer; there is none to prune or dung it, and if there be one he must be devoured by the dragon or slain by the woman of the Apocalypse, drunken with blood. O merciful, gracious Father, how long will this great misery continue? Our rulers are like devouring lions and bears; our fathers betray us. They who pastor us deceive us. And those who pose as pastors are thieves and murderers of our souls. Well may we sigh and lament from the depth of our souls. Our house of Christ is now, alas, the church and kingdom of Antichrist. And that for no other reason, mark you, than that they ungratefully reject the word of grace and will not have the ruling Lord Jesus Christ to rule over them with the righteous sceptre of His holy Word and Spirit.
Nevertheless, this poor, blind generation hopes to obtain the grace and promises of God through their infant baptism, masses, confessions, and similar superstitious ceremonies and idolatries, which they call the true religion, and use it as a remedy for their sins. Ah, no, dear me, no. For, says the wise man, the hope of the ungodly is like dust that is blown away with the wind. I have said it once, and I say it again, and that from the mouth of the Lord, who can neither lie nor deceive, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. And, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
My dearly beloved reader, take heed to the Word of the Lord and learn to know the true God. I warn your faithfully to take it, if you please. He will not save you nor forgive your sins nor show you His mercy and grace except according to His Word; namely, if you repent and if you believe, if you are born of Him, if you do what He has commanded and walk as He walks. For if He could save an unrighteous carnal man without regeneration, faith, and repentance, then He did not teach us the truth. But He is the truth, and there is no falsehood in Him. Therefore, I tell you again that you cannot be reconciled by means of all the masses, matins, vespers, ceremonies, sacraments, councils, statues, and commandments under the whole heavens, which the popes and their colleges have made from the beginning. For they are abominations and reconciliations, I warn you. In vain, says Christ, do they honor me, teaching commandments of men.
But if you wish to be saved, by all means and first of all, your earthly, carnal, ungodly life must be reformed. For it is naught but true repentance that the Scriptures teach and enjoin upon us with admonitions, threatenings, reprovings, miracles, examples, ceremonies, and sacraments. If you do not repent there is nothing in heaven or on earth that can help you, for without true repentance we are comforted in vain. The prophet says, O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err and destroy the way of thy paths. Isa. 3:12. We must be born from above, must be changed and renewed in our hearts, and must be transplanted from the unrighteous and evil nature of Adam into the true and good nature of Christ, or we can never in all eternity be saved by any means, be they human or divine. Wherever true repentance and the new creature are not (I speak of those who are of the age of understanding) there man must be eternally lost; this is incontrovertibly clear. This everyone who does not wish to deceive his soul may very properly store away in the little box of his conscience.
This regeneration of which we write, from which comes the penitent, pious life that has the promise, can only originate in the Word of the Lord, rightly taught and rightly understood and received in the heart by faith through the Holy Ghost.
The first birth of man is out of the first and earthly Adam, and therefore its nature is earthly and Adam-like, that is, carnally minded, unbelieving, disobedient, and blind to divine things; deaf and foolish, whose end, if not renewed by the Word, will be damnation and eternal death. If now you desire to have your wicked nature cleared up, and desire to be free form eternal death and damnation so that you may obtain with all true Christians that which is promised them, then you must be born again. For the regenerate are in grace and have the promise as you have heard.
The regenerate, therefore, lead a penitent and new life, for they are renewed in Christ and have received a new heart and spirit. Once they were earthly-minded, now heavenly; once they were carnal, now spiritual; once they were unrighteous, now righteous; once they were evil, now good and they live no longer after the old corrupted nature of the first earthly Adam, but after the new upright nature of the new and heavenly Adam, Christ Jesus, even as Paul says: Nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. Their poor, weak life they daily renew more and more, and that after the image of Him who created them. Their minds are like the mind of Christ, they gladly walk as He walked, they crucify and tame their flesh will its evil lusts.
In baptism they bury their sins in the Lordís death and rise with Him to a new life. They circumcise their hearts with the Word of the Lord; they are baptized with the Holy Ghost into the spotless, holy body of Christ, as obedient members of His church, according to the true ordinance and Word of the Lord. They put on Christ and manifest his spirit, nature, and power all in their conduct. They fear God with all the heart and seek in all their thoughts, words, and works, nothing but the praise of God and the salvation of their beloved brethren.
Hatred and vengeance they do not know, for they love those who hate them; they do good to those who despitefully use them and pray for those who persecute them. Avarice, pride, unchastity, and pomp they hate and oppose; all drunkenness, fornication, adultery, hatred, envy, backbiting, lying, cheating, fighting, quarreling, robbing and plunder, blood, and idolatry, in short, all impure, carnal works, and they resist the world with all its lusts. They meditate upon the law of the Lord by day and by night; they rejoice at good and are grieved at evil. Evil they do not repay with evil, but with good. They do not seek merely their own good by that which is good for their neighbors both as to body and soul. They feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty. They entertain the needy, release prisoners, visit the sick, comfort the fainthearted, admonish the erring, are ready after their Masterís example to give their lives for their brethren.
Again, their thoughts are pure and chaste, their words are true and seasoned with salt, with them it is a year that is yea and nay that is a nay. And their works are done in the fear of the Lord. Their hearts are heavenly and new, their minds peaceful and joyous. They seek righteousness with all their might. In short, they are so assured in their faith through the spirit and Word of God that they are victorious by virtue of their faith over all bloody, cruel tyrants, with all their tortures, imprisonments, banishments, plunder, stakes, executions, racks, and wheels. And of a pure zeal with an innocent, pure, simple yea and nay they are willing to die. They glory of Christ, the sweetness of the Word, and the salvation of their souls are dearer to them than anything under heaven.
You see, worthy reader, all those who are thus born of God with Christ, who thus conform their weak life to the Gospel, thus convert themselves to follow the example of Christ, hear and believe His holy Word, follow His commandments which He in plain words commanded us in the Holy Scriptures, these are the holy Christian Church which has the promise; the true children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ. For they are born with Him of one Father, they are the new Eve, the pure chaste bride. They are flesh of Christís flesh and bone of His bone, the spiritual house of Israel, the spiritual city of Jerusalem, the spiritual temple of Mount Zion, the spiritual ark of the Lord in which is hidden the true bread of heaven, Christ Jesus and His blessed Word, the green, blossoming rod of faith, and the spiritual tables of stone with the commandments of the Lord written on them. They are the spiritual seed of Abraham, children of the promise, in covenant with God and partakers of the heavenly blessing.
These regenerated people have a spiritual king over them who rules them by the unbroken sceptre of His mouth, namely, with His Holy Spirit and Word. He clothes them with the garment of righteousness, of pure white silk. He refreshes them with the living water of His Holy Spirit and feeds them the Bread of Life. His name is Jesus Christ.
They are the children of peace who have beaten their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and know war no more. They give to Caesar the things that are Caesarís and to God the things that are Godís.
Their sword is the sword of the Spirit, which they wield in a good conscience through the Holy Ghost.
Their marriage is that of one man and one woman, according to Godís own ordinance.
Their kingdom is the kingdom of grace, her in hope and after this in eternal life.
Their citizenship is in heaven, and they use the lower creations such as eating, drinking, clothing, and shelter, with thanksgiving and to the necessary support of their own lives, and to the free service of their neighbor, according to the Word of the Lord.
Their doctrine is the unadultered Word of God, testified through Moses and the prophets, through Christ and the apostles, upon which they build their faith, which saves our souls. Everything that is contrary thereto, they consider accursed.
Their baptism they administer to the believing according to the commandment of the Lord, in the doctrines and usages of the apostles.
Their Lordís supper they celebrate as a memorial of the favors and death of their Lord, and an incitement to brotherly love.
Their ban or excommunication descends on all the proud scorners-great and small, rich and poor, without any respect of persons, who once passed under the Word but have now fallen back, those living or teaching offensively in the house of the Lord-until they repent.
They daily sigh and lament over their poor, unsatisfactory evil flesh, over the manifest errors and faults of their weak lives. Their inward and outward war is without ceasing. Their sighing and calling is to the most High. Their fight and struggle is against the devil, world, and flesh all their days, pressing on toward the prize of the high calling that they may obtain it. So they prove by their actions that they believe the Word of the Lord, that they know and possess Christ in power, that they are born of God and have Him as their Father.
Honorable reader, as I said before so I say again, these are the Christian who have the promise and are assured by the Spirit of God that Christ Jesus with all His merits, righteousness. Intercession, word, cross, suffering, flesh, blood, death, resurrection, kingdom, and all His benefits are theirs without recourse to merit, graciously given. But what kind of doctrine, faith, life, regeneration, baptism, supper, ban, and religion the churches of the sects have (their name matters not), and what kind of reward is promised them in the Scriptures, I will let the sensible reader ponder with the Spirit and the Word of the Lord.
Here I would call on all high and mighty lords, princes, and rulers, on all the popes, cardinals, bishops, and wise and learned ones, who from the beginning have perverted and darkened the Scriptures to show us one single word in the whole Bible, I say in the Bible (for we do not regard human fables and lies), saying that an unbelieving, refractory, carnal man without regeneration and true repentance was or can be saved simply because he boasts of faith and the death of Christ, or hears the masses and service of the priests, as the whole world does. If they can do this, they will have gained the point. But this never has occurred and never will take place to the end of time. If such worthless men could be saved without repentance and regeneration by hearing masses and going to confessionals as their poor children without the warrant of the Scripture expect, then we might of a truth say that the afore-mentioned means are stronger (though they are idolatrous) than the Word of the Lord. For the Word knows no masses but says that the unrepentant must perish in his sins. Otherwise Moses and the prophets, Christ and His apostles, have been false witnesses, and have miserably deceived us poor sheep because they directed us to such a narrow path.
Ah, no! friend, no! beware, I tell you, God will not lie nor deceive you. For He says through the prophet: I am the Lord, I change not. All that He has testified in His holy Word through His prophets, through Christ and His apostles, is His eternal, immutable will. This we may all ponder if we do not wish to deceive our souls. In short, it is all in vain, all this massing, this counseling, this mediating business. This birth from above and true repentance must take place. We must believe Christ and His Word and abide constantly in His Spirit, ordinance, and example, or eternal misery will be our position. This is uncontrovertible.
Therefore I admonish and entreat you, as one who loves our soul, to repent. Repent, I say, and without delay. The ax is laid unto the root of the trees; therefore, every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Matt 3:10. Be vigilant for you poor souls that have been bought with a precious price, and be no longer comforted with open lies, nor fed with husks which swine eat. For, behold, I tell you in Christ, there is nothing under heaven that can or will endure before God but the new creature, faith which works by love, and the keeping of the commandments-let the learned one clamor and write as long as the please.
My faithful reader, do not believe me, but the Word to which by the grace of God I have with my small talents pointed you. For I tell you, as the Lord liveth, all who teach otherwise that we have shown from the Word of the Lord, whosoever they be, are prophets who deceive you, who place pillows under your arms and cushions under your heads, who daub the wall with deceptive plaster and speak peace to the wicked, but not out of the mouth of the Lord. For as certain as it is that the regenerate and penitent are the true Christians, who have Godís truth, the true light, the pardon of their sins, and the sure promise of eternal life; so certain also it is that the sensuous and impenitent are false Christians, have the lies of the serpent, darkness, sin still their own, and the certain promise of eternal death. That this is the truth will be found to be the case in eternity before the great and Almighty God. Of this His sure Word is to me a true witness. Of this I am by His grace wholly certain.
Now perhaps some may answer: Our belief is that Christ is the Son of God, that His Word is truth, and that He purchased us with His blood and truth. We were regenerated in baptism and we received the Holy Ghost; therefore we are the true church and congregation of Christ.
We reply: If your faith is as you say, why do you not do the things which He has commanded you in His Word? His commandment is, Repent and keep the commandments. And it is evident that you grow worse daily; that unrighteousness is your father, wickedness your mother, and the express commandments of the Lord are folly and foolishness to you. Since you do not do as He commands and desires, but as you please, it is sufficiently proved that you do not believe that Jesus Christ it the Son of God, although you say so. Nor do you believe that His Word is truth, for faith and its fruits are inseparable. This you will all have to confess by the grace of God.
O poor, blind men, be silent and shamed. Let Christ Jesus with His Spirit and Word be your teacher and example, your way and your mirror. Do you think it is enough merely to acknowledge Christ according to the flesh, or to say that you believe Him, that you are baptized, that you are Christian, that you are purchased with the blood and death of Christ? Ah, no! I have told you often and tell you once more, You must be so born of God. In you life you must be so converted and changed that you become new men in Christ, so that Christ is in you and you are in Christ. Otherwise you can never be Christians, for, If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. II Cor. 5:17.
If you believe rightly in Christ, as you boast, then manifest it by your lives that you believe, for the just shall live out of his faith, as the Scriptures say. This is the truth, as has been fully attested and shown by Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Samuel, David, Matthias, Zacchaeus, Mary Magdalene, Paul, and all the pious children of God who were from the beginning to this day. But how you in your faith behave and how you are minded may be most plainly seen by your excessive lies, fraud, avarice, hoarding, cursing, swearing, pride, and pomp. For your hears burn in unrighteousness; your fear neither God nor His Word. Nevertheless you boast that you believe in Christ, have Christís Word, and that you are Christians. I repeat, Repent, of hold your peace and be ashamed.
You imagine, moreover, that you were born again in your baptism, and that you received the Holy Ghost. Faithful reader, reflect that if it had so happened to you as you say, you would have to acknowledge that your regeneration took place without the hearing of the Word, without the faith and knowledge of Christ, and without all ordinary knowledge and understanding. You would have to acknowledge besides that the afore-mentioned birth and the received Spirit are altogether without effect, wisdom, power, and fruit in you: yes, vain and dead. That you live nether after the Spirit, nor in the power of the new birth, I shall let your gross avarice, drunkenness, pride, and idolatrous, carnal lives demonstrate. All you baptized ones may be my witnesses. Yes, my friend, if you were thus born of God in your baptism and had received the Holy Ghost as your comforters assure you, then certainly the new spiritual life and its new spiritual fruits would also be manifest as was the case with the saints from the beginning and still is. For it is clear that the regenerate do not willfully live in sin, but through faith and true repentance were buried by baptism into the death of Christ, and arose with Him to a new life. Also, those who have the Spirit of the Lord, bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. That you do not bury your sins, but serve them to the full; and that you do not bring forth the fruits of the Spirit is daily demonstrated (Lord, help) by your vain, idolatrous, carnal lives. My friend, out of true love I warn you and admonish and entreat you, awake and observe what the Word of the Lord teaches. For the Spirit of the Lord refuses to dwell in a wicked soul, or in a body enslaved to sin.
In the second place, I say, if you were properly baptized, according to the Word of the Lord as you imagine, then you would have put on Christ, and would live no longer after the native, evil nature of Adam, but after the regenerate, good nature of Christ. But since this is not evident in your case and you are still wholly carnal and earthly, as is evident from all you fruits, therefore it is clear that you are not regenerate, baptized Christians, but impenitent, carnal heathen. For your works are mostly done after a heathen will as one may see and hear. Once more I say, Awake and hear what the Word of the Lord says: If you have put on Christ, that is, if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Rom. 8:10.
In the third place, I say, If you are properly baptized according to the Word of the Lord, then you have become members and companions of the body of Christ, and have the testimony of a good conscience before God. A body is never divided against itself, neither hates nor hurts is members, but each member serves and assists the other. But it is evident that you unmercifully persecute, murder, and exterminate the elect members of Christ who are of your own flesh and blood. Those moreover, whom He has purchased by His death, regenerated by His Word, endowed by the Spirit, chose as His peculiar people, and who are depending for a new, reborn, and good conscience, not upon human invention, but leaning in true faith solely upon the Lordís grace, righteousness, prayer, merits, death and blood. Your rely on, and comfort yourselves with, the masses of priests and monks, their confessionals, absolution, water, bread, wine, oil, and vigils. Therefore conduct proves that you are not active members of the before-mentioned body, but are much more destroyers and defilers of it; that you have nor a firm, joyful, peaceful, and good conscience, but a fearful, condemned, restless, and evil conscience before God. For we see that all those above-names superstitions and the false worship which all regenerate, pious, and good consciences consider mere abominations, are your chief support and comfort, because you neither have nor know Christ. My friend, beware. You are being deceived miserably by your comforters.
The spirit of prophecy says, And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things, saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive: I know the blasphemy of them which say the are Jews, and are not; but are the synagogue of Satan. Rev. 2:8,9. Well may it be said in our day to all the great and comfortable sects, I know the great blasphemy and see the wicked lives of those who say they are regenerate, baptized Christians, and are not, but are Satanís synagogue. For I do not see how they could do worse.
If we come to the rulers and potentates, there we find nothing but haughtiness and pride, nothing but pomp and vaunting, dancing and leaping, harloting, riding and hunting, lancing and fighting, warring, devastating cities and lands, and living to their heartís desire.
Turning to the regents and judges, we find insatiable avarice, treachery, and clear devices to defraud the helpless and god-fearing (I am not referring to the good). They seek gifts and accept bribes; the right of the righteous they pervert; and they willingly accept the gifts to shed innocent blood. They persecute the truth; reject what is right and good. The fear of God is not before their eyes.
I few turn to the divines, whether preachers, priests, or monks, there we find such an idle, lazy, wanton, and carnal life, such a corrupted, anti-Christian doctrine and interpretation of the Scriptures, such hatred, envy, defaming, betraying, lying, and turmoil against all the pious, that I would be ashamed to mention if before the virtuous and honest.
The common people run as a frantic heifer, as the prophet laments. They lie and cheat, curse and swear by the wounds and sacraments of the Lord, by His judgment, hand, power, suffering, death, and blood. I am ashamed that I have to record these blasphemous abominations. They gamble, drink, and fight. In short, the wicked excess of their lives is not to be turned and their great folly cannot be obstructed. Still this must pass that the afore-mentioned lords, judges, learned and common people are the truly regenerate church and baptized congregation of Christ. May the merciful Lord graciously preserve all His chose children from such a generation, baptism, and church in all eternity.
I testify the truth in Christ Jesus, take heed if you will; Jesus Christ did nor from the beginning tolerate such openly impenitent, carnal sinners in His holy city, kingdom, and church. Nor will He ever endure them, this you may believe.
O Almighty God and Lord, how sadly Thy holy, fatherly will, and Thy adorably great name are derided, and how little it Thy saving, precious Word esteemed! What an ugly, idolatrous, cruel, and bloodthirsty devil is made of Thy beloved Son! All their abominations, sins, and abuses they cover with His blessed Holy name, Word, death, and blood.
Shame yourselves, O callous, perverted men. Shame yourselves, I say, before God and His angels, that you live so carelessly as wild rebels without restraint, and nevertheless dare to say that you are the true, regenerate congregation and baptized church of Christ. I have told you often and tell you again that all who are born of God, rightly baptized in the Spirit, fire, and water as the Scriptures teach, are heavenly-minded and godly. Their sins they bury. They lead a penitent, pious, virtuous life according to the Word of the Lord. They show the nature and power of Christ which dwells in them by word and work. They bring forth the fruits of the Spirit and suppress the works of the flesh. They are proper members of the body of Christ and labor according to the gift received. In short, they are fruit-bearing twigs of the true vine, and their fruits abide unto eternal life.
But since it is manifest in you that you show the reverse in all you fruits, and they see in your whole life that all is worldly and carnal, therefore it is clear, it is not, that your boast of the new birth, Spirit, baptism, congregation and church is not the truth, but basically vain, untruthful and false.
The holy Scriptures and our common faith teach is that they holy, Christian church is an assembly of the righteous and a communion of saints. He that can see with but half an eye in the Scriptures must confess that your church and assembly as a church and assembly of the unrighteous, the immoral, the impenitent, the sensual, and perverts, yes, of the bloodthirsty wolves, lions, bears, basilisks, serpents, and fiery flying dragons.
Ah, friends, life your heads and open your eyes! Oh, ye people, look through the whole world what life they lead, they who have received the same baptism with you, who partake of the same sacraments and worship, who indulge in the same boasting of the death and blood of the Lord and say that they are Christís church and people. For it is clearer than midday that envy, bite, and devour one another, so that you ruin provinces, cities, castles, and citadels with your accursed wars and turmoil. You shed human blood like water. The poor citizen and peasant, men of the same faith, you deprive of life and possessions. You burn, rob, plunder, capture, tax, and torture even those who have never harmed you, or given you an evil word. In truth, I know not how the Behemoth of hell could rant in a more devilish and cruel fashion than you or your members who pose as the church of Christ. God preserve us! You violate matrons and maidens; you persecute the pious and God-fearing. You tolerate public brothels, drunken saloons, fencing schools, gambling dens, and the like disgraces. Of idol houses and image there is nor end with all false service. I make no mention of your intolerable, blasphemous cursing, and swearing, your lying, cheating, drunkenness, harlotry, pomp, splendor, etc. Why talk at length?
I quit, for it seems to me that nobody can be found under the whole heaven who can relate in detail the gross abominations, wicked acts, abuses, and scandals of those who share your faith and baptism. An honest man must be astounded at these great sins. Dear Lord, help us, yes, whosoever does not yet understand that you are born from above, that you were not baptized properly but contrary to all Scripture, and that all your boasting of the pardon of sins and the mercy of Christ, His grace, merit, flesh, blood, cross, death, church, kingdom, and eternal promise is vain, and without the Scriptures: he must be, I say, a dull and foolish man.
Ah, reader, how little you ponder the Word of the Lord, so highly recommended to you; how little you regard your poor soul, bought with such a precious price, which must either live with God in heaven or perish forever with the devil in hell. Do you think, my friend, that the Lord is a dreamer of dreams, or His Word a fable? Ah, no, not a letter will fall to the ground of all that He spoke. It is high time for you to reflect that Godís promise of grace is not given to the unregenerate and impenitent, but to the regenerate and penitent.
Let every one take warning and trust no longer in lies; for instance, that he is baptized and regenerated Christian, nor trust to long ancient usages, nor in papistic decretals, nor imperial mandates, nor upon the wisdom and glosses of the learned ones, nor upon the invention, council, institution, and wisdom of any man. My counsel, says God through the power of the prophet, shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. The Word of God is eternal. Neither princes, nor power, nor menís commands with all their imperial edicts, counsels, and decrees determine faith so as to save a man. It is impossible. We must hear and follow that which Christ Jesus, Godís first and only begotten Son brought from heaven and taught from the mouth of His Father, and confirmed by signs and wonders, and finally sealed with His crimson blood. The decretal stands; stands, I say, and can never be demolished or altered by any gates of hell.
By this counsel we are all taught that we must hear Christ, believe in Christ, follow His footsteps, repent, be born from above; become as little children, not in understanding, but in malice; be of the same mind as Christ, walk as He did, deny ourselves, take up His cross and follow Him; we are not worthy of love, father, mother, children, or life more than Him, we are not worthy of Him, nor are we His disciples. We are taught in it that adulterers, whoremongers, murders, drunkards, idolaters, and the like sinners shall not inherit the kingdom of God; that we must not love the world and the things therein, nor conform to the world; that we through faith must die to our evil flesh and conquer the devil, lead an upright, irreproachable, pious life through faith, and in al l things act according to the will of the Lord. Also, we are to baptize upon faith and not without it, and celebrate the Lordís Supper in a sincerely penitent congregation, I mean so far as man can judge. We must practice exclusion or the ban, according to the Scriptures. We are to fear, serve, and love the Lord with all the heart and walk in His commandments, and we are to assist our neighbor, comfort and serve him as much as in us is, and the like doctrine and instruction.
You see, worthy reader, her you have in part the immutable, eternal decretal of God, which was sealed in the wise council chamber of His Majesty; and proof that He recognizes no other. Blesses are they who receive this with a firm faith and conform thereto according to their abilities in all weakness, that is, live according to the divine decretal, ordinance, command, and prohibition, according to Christís Word, and according to the unblamable example of Christ. On the contrary, cursed are they who despise, reject, curse, hate, defame, mock, persecute, and cast it into fire and water, and comfort themselves with human power, institutions, and fables. For they deny the Lord who bought them and reject the Gospel of peace; nor do they believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, Savior, High Priest, and Prophet. Ah, now good it were if these poor people had never been born. May the Lord mercifully grant them converted and renewed hearts so that they may repent and be eternally saved, if possible.
I will now terminate the matter and direct the well-meaning reader to the Scriptures since the whole world with few exceptions depends upon human doctrine, lies, fiction, fables, perverted glosses, simple idolatry, and false worship; comforting themselves in these and boasting of what they neither have nor are. Therefore have I briefly, according to my few talents, in sincere faithful love shown you in this epistle who, according to the unadulterated Word, are the true regenerate, repentant, and baptized Christians that have the promise, and who are not, so that all truly hungry and thirsty souls who are zealous for God may be rightly satisfied with the truth unto eternal salvation and may no longer follow the serpentís cursed lie unto their eternal damnation. Yes, that they may all be helped, made whole, and saved who now stand before the eyes of the Lord with their poor, plundered souls so miserable, sick, poor, and naked. The Lord strengthen you. Believe Godís infallible Word, reform your sinful lives, pray with confidence, and be obedient to the Gospel of Christ in order that you may receive the eternal promise to you everlasting joy and salvation, with all the saints, which God the merciful Father has promised to all His beloved children through Christ Jesus.
Grace by with all who seek Christ and eternal life with all the heart. Amen.
If you will allow Jesus Christ with His eternal Spirit and Word to be the Judge, then you will acknowledge that the sure foundation of truth has been shown.
Copied by permission of Herald Press from The Complete Writings of Menno Simons. J. C. Wenger, editor; Leonard Verduin, translator. All rights reserved.