|« Prev||THE TRUE CHRISTIAN FAITH.||Next »|
THE TRUE CHRISTIAN FAITH.
We wish all the chosen children of God, our beloved brethren and sisters in Christ Jesus, an increase of faith, grace, peace and spiritual joy, perfect righteousness and eternal life, all which is of God, our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood. To him be praise, honor, glory, kingdom, power and majesty, from eternity to eternity, Amen.
CHOSEN, beloved children, brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, although, O God! we are so unwisely prevented by this irrational, blind world, from preaching the true gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to every one, verbally; and, although the cruel, bloody tyranny, encouraged by our useless, wicked priests and preachers, is used so unrestrainedly against Christ and his word (for these poor children seek and love dross more than gold, chaff more than wheat, lies more than truth, and darkness more than light), yet shall God's only invincible truth, which always triumphs, through the Holy Ghost, in the true children of God, bear its crown; notwithstanding that it is stung so miserably in the heel by the conquered serpent and his seed, the proud despisers, liars and blood‑shedders, that it can scarcely stand in obedience to its Lord Jesus Christ. Notwithstanding their raving, this envious, bloody seed and serpent must, with bruised head, and quite powerless, remain under its sway, for through the power of the Spirit, and the gospel truth in Christ Jesus he is wholly overcome.
Since then, this old, crooked serpent, which was from the beginning, proudly and falsely opposed to God, and was a cruel murderer, is put under the feet of Christ and his church, and has endured and seen his lying seed destroyed and trampled under foot, through the revealed truth, therefore, does he gnash his teeth in furious rage, and breathe out his accursed, infernal breath of heresy through his prophets and preachers. He casts out of his mouth the terrible streams of tyranny through the rulers and the mighty of the earth, after the glorious church (woman), pregnant with the word of the Lord, with a view to exterminate and destroy her seed. But God be eternally praised, who has protected her against the red dragon, and has prepared her a place in the wilderness.
Since, then, for reasons assigned, I cannot teach publicly, nevertheless, I will serve you by writing, as long as the Lord will permit me, and I live. I will serve you with my small talents, which the gracious Father has granted me through his Son, Christ Jesus, out of the abundant treasury of his heavenly riches. I say with Paul, Not with the wisdom of man, not with words of wisdom to serve you, for I possess and know them not. I let those seek them who are eager after them. My boasting is, with Paul, only to know Christ, and him crucified; for to know him is eternal life. Therefore God cannot endow us with better wisdom than with this, although it is foolishness to the world; for truth is more precious than gold and silver; than all pearls and precious stones; there is nothing under heaven to be compared to her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace; she is a tree of life to them that lay hold 105upon her; and happy is every one that retaineth her.
Yes, beloved brothers, every one who is thus rightly taught of God, in this wisdom (for she is the wisdom of the saints), may glory, by the grace given him, over all graduated doctors, theologists, jurists, orators and poets, although he could neither write nor speak, and were he the most helpless upon earth. But all those who are not instructed in this wisdom from God, though they, were as glorious as Solomon, as victorious as Alexander, as rich as Croesus, as strong as Hercules, as learned as Plato, as subtle as Aristotle, as eloquent as Demosthenes and Cicero, and as well skilled in languages as Mithridates; yea, so greatly experienced that his like were not to be found from the beginning, nevertheless, he is a fool in the eyes of the Lord; this must be confessed and acknowledged.
With this wisdom, I say, so much as the gracious Father, the Giver of every perfect gift, has given me through his Son, Jesus Christ, I desire to serve not only our brothers and sisters, but the whole world, with all my heart, that all the hungry and thirsty souls may be clothed from above, and be satisfied with this celestial wisdom, who desire to live according to the will of the Lord; those souls which he created to his honor, and purchased with the blood of his Son, that they may learn to know God through his Son and word, in spirit, who says, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD, which exercise loving kindness, judgment and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the LORD," Jer. 9:23, 24.
O, dear children, you who are born of the word of the Lord through the Spirit, reflect rightly upon these things in your hearts, how incomprehensibly great the heavenly bounty and grace are, which have appeared to us, through Christ, and have been given us of the Father, that he has so graciously bestowed upon us, grievous sinners, in our most abominable blindness, the glorious and divine gift of his wisdom; yea, when we knew neither God nor Christ, were strangers to the life that is out of God, children of wrath and of eternal death, knew not the word of peace, and strayed like sheep who knew no shepherd; that he has so graciously bestowed upon us this great treasure, the true knowledge of the kingdom of God; the treasure which lies buried in the field he discovered to us by his Spirit, and made known to us the mystery of his good will, and the true regenerating signification of his holy gospel, which cannot be taught in colleges, cannot be purchased, is not to be brought from foreign lands, nor can it be merited by anything; that he has opened to us with the key of his word and Spirit, the saving truth, and has closed it to all emperors, kings, lords, princes, the wise and the learned, before the whole world; that he redeemed us from the power of darkness, and, according to his will and good pleasure, led us into the kingdom of his dear Son; yea, that he has made us kings and priests, that we are to be a chosen and holy people; a people to serve him in love, and to be his own, that we are to publish his power and virtue, because he has called us out of darkness to his marvelous light, as Peter says: O great grace and love!
Most beloved brothers, always rejoice in the Lord. Again, I say, with Paul, rejoice, that the great King, Jesus Christ, who has all power in heaven and on earth, that he has manifested such grace towards you, that he has called you, poor, unesteemed children, to such high honor, you who are the reproach and disgrace of the whole world, that he has made you kings and priests; Kings, I say, who have been anointed with the oil of grace, through the Holy Ghost, crowned with the crown of honor, clothed with the garment of righteousness, and governed by Christ, your King; not with the weapons of death, such as fire‑arms, spears, swords, horses, riders and servants, as the kings of this world do, but with the invincible and eternal sceptre of the power of God, namely, with the sharp‑edged sword of the holy word, which will victoriously triumph by virtue of your unconquerable faith, over gold, silver, cities, countries, lords, princes, flesh, blood, banners, banishment, swords, stakes, water, fire, hunger, thirst, naked 106ness, hell, sin, law, fear, devil and death; you will be perfect in life and death, and secure from all your enemies, both visible and invisible, who would deprive and rob you of the promised kingdom, through the advice and seed of the old serpent. The dominion and government of the spiritual king are spiritual, therefore, they cannot be fatally hurt or conquered by tyranny, false doctrine, or evil lusts; for they can do all things through Christ, who strengthens them, who also is their helper and redeemer, whose shield and sword is their glory.
Again, you are also priests anointed of God, not with the external oil of Aaron and his sons, nor with the perishable blood of oxen and sheep; nor with the splendid garments of gold, silk and precious stones, as the law required; but anointed, sprinkled and affected with the oil of the Holy Ghost, with the blood of Christ, and clothed with the garment of righteousness, ordained and called of God, not to slay the creatures daily, and offer them upon altars, in outward temples of stone, as Moses commanded the priests in the law; but you are to slay human beings, all your lives, with the sword of the divine word (understand spiritually), together with your own refractory flesh and blood, that is, that you teach and reprove them, and yourselves, with the Spirit and word of the Lord, that you and they die to your unrighteousness and evil lusts, destroy them, and thus offer in your spiritual house or temple, not made with hands, upon the only and eternal altar of our reconciliation, Jesus Christ.
Besides, you are not such priests, who of their own righteousness offer bread and wine for the sins and transgressions of the common people, and for the souls of the deceased, neither are you to sing nor read mass, nor worship the golden, silver, wooden and stone images, nor serve nor burn incense to them as the poor, ignorant priests of the world do; but you are holy priests, who purify and sanctify your own bodies daily, and in time of need voluntarily offer them as a sweet smelling sacrifice, for the truth's sake, together with your ardent prayers and joyful thanksgiving, out of a believing, converted, pure heart; for such offerings are well pleasing to the Lord.
Would to God, that all who are called priests, were changed into such, priests; ah! how much innocent blood would be spared, how gloriously the truth would be spread, and what a noble Christian world this would be!
Say, beloved brothers, who can fully comprehend this grace, or relate these benefits? Again, formerly, we all strayed as lost sheep, which have no shepherd; we walked according to the lusts of our evil flesh, even as they all do, who know not the way of the Father; we were unbelievers in divine things, blind and without understanding, full of bruises and putrifying sores from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head, and by nature, children of wrath like others. But blessed be the Lord, now we are washed, now we are sanctified, now we are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the Spirit of our God, 1 Cor. 6:11; in short, we are converted to the true Shepherd and preserver of our souls, Jesus Christ, who pastures us in the rich pastures of his truth, feeds us with the bread of his word, sustains us with the tree of life, and refreshes us with the water of his Spirit. Who can comprehend and relate this grace?
Besides this, when we were yet ungodly and enemies, he did not punish us as he did the angels that sinned, nor like the first depraved world, nor like Sodom and Gomorrah, nor like those who worshipped the calf, nor like those in the day of provocation, nor like the seditious and adulterers, nor like those in the wilderness, who acted contrary to his will and word, for he destroyed all of them; but he saved us through his great mercy, led us by his right hand, drew us by his goodness, renewed us by his word, begat us by the Holy Ghost, and enlightened us by the clear light of his truth; that we by his grace renounced the world, flesh, devil and all manner of evil, willingly entered upon the path of peace and submitted to the easy yoke of his gospel. It appears to me, this may properly be called grace.
Most beloved children, take heed: Since then, the gracious Father has dealt so marvelously with us according to his great mercy, and manifested his love toward us without our merits, it is right and becoming that we 107also love, fear, praise and honor such a benevolent Lord and merciful Father, with all our powers serve him, and be obedient to him in all our weakness.
Since then, he has manifested, toward us afflicted sinners, such unspeakable love and grace, as said, which love and grace cannot be rightly seen and understood, with the blind eyes and the ignorant reason of the flesh, but must be seen and understood with the inward eyes of the mind, and through the unction of the Holy Ghost; that is, with a sincere, sure, immoveable, confident, vigorous, unfeigned and pure faith; such as the Scriptures teach.
Such an unfeigned faith being required as mentioned, and clearly finding in the word of the Lord, that all dealing and aim of true Christianity, concerning the new birth or creature, true repentance, dying unto sin, a new life, true righteousness, obedience, salvation and eternal life, lie in a sincere, active faith, according to all Scripture, as may be seen and read in many passages; therefore have I, through the grace of the Lord, undertaken to prove to all lovers of eternal truth, by divine testimony from the word of the Lord, which is the true doctrine that avails before God, and has the promise in the Scriptures; namely, which has energy, power, work, and effect, agreeing with the gospel of Christ and the doctrines of the apostles, in order that all those who see, read or hear our writings, may thoroughly and understandingly know that the stubborn, fruitless faith of this world is vain and dead, and is eternally banished and accursed of God; and its fruits vain hypocrisy, commands of men, idolatry, and false service. It regenerates none, it is earthly and carnally minded, hating and persecuting the truth; for this faith knows neither Christ nor his word, as may be evidently seen through the whole world. God knows of no other faith than that which has power and fruit, regenerates the heart, converts and renews, as the Scriptures say, "The just shall live by faith," Hab. 2:4.
It is all in vain to boast of faith where the godly, new fruits and works of faith are not.
I therefore, exhort all my god‑fearing readers in the Lord, and entreat all, that they would impress those things on their souls, and write them on the tablets of their hearts, that our holy and christian faith is not a dead or superannuated speculation, as the world thinks, nor is it only verbal boasting, as we find it among the great and tolerated sects; but it is an active gift and power of God, a living, heavenly inspiration in a melted, open heart, or conscience which firmly believes and lays hold upon, and acknowledges the whole word of God (the threatening law, as well as the consoling gospel), to be right and true, whereby the heart is pierced and moved through the Holy Ghost with a peculiar, regenerative, renewing, vivifying power, and it first produces the fear of God, for it knows the judgment and wrath of the Lord, over all transgressions and sins which are committed against his will and word. The heart dreads, fears, and is astonished before God, and therefore, dares not do, counsel, or permit anything which it acknowledges through the word, in the Spirit, that God, the righteous judge, hates and forbids, in his holy word.
This faith also produces the love of God whereby we love him; for it acknowledges from the testimony of the holy Scriptures, rightly understood, in Spirit, the unsearchably great riches of grace, wherewith our merciful, good Father, through Christ, has so graciously endowed us. Therefore it loves in return its loving God, awakened by the manifest beneficence of the aforesaid grace, and is thus voluntarily urged, through the active power of love (resulting from such unfeigned faith), to obedience of all the commands of God, even as Christ says, "If a man love me, he will keep my words," John 14:23.
Behold, this is the faith with which we have to deal in the following writings. It is the only faith which has the promise in Scripture of salvation and eternal life, through Christ, the only and first begotten Son of God. To him be praise, honor and glory, from eternity to eternity, Amen.
We see that if any one wishes to build a good house, or high and permanent tower, that first a solid foundation is laid, so that it will sustain the heavy superstructure; that the work, commenced at such great expense, 108be not ruinously and shamefully demolished and abandoned. Thus it must be with all true christians; they must have, in their hearts, such a sure and solid foundation that they may stand unshaken in the building of their faith, against all the raging tempests, rains and floods, which will try them not a little, so that they may successfully accomplish, by the help of the Lord, their undertaken work and building; so that they may not again depart from the right road, to the everlasting shame and injury of their poor souls. Paul says, "If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him," Heb. 10:38.
Faithful brethren, take heed: This precious, and only well adapted corner‑stone, ground and foundation in Zion, prepared for us by the Father, upon which we have to build the edifice of our faith, is Jesus Christ. All who are founded upon this ground, will not be consumed by the fire of tribulation; for they are living stones in the temple of the Lord, they are like gold, silver and precious stones, and can never be prevailed against by the gates of hell, such as false doctrine, flesh, blood, world, sin, devil, water, fire, sword, or by any other means, if ever so sorely tried; for they are founded upon Christ, confirmed in the faith and assured in the word through the Holy Ghost that they are not to be turned away from the pure and wholesome doctrine of Christ by all the furious and bloody Neros under the heavens, with all their cruel tyranny; they are not to be diverted from an unblamable and pious life, which is of God, as we have seen in many places for more than twenty years past; for they are as immoveable as Mount Zion, as firm pillars, brave soldiers, and as pious, valiant witnesses of Christ; they have fought till death, and do daily fight for the word and truth of the Lord (God be eternally praised). I speak of those who have the Spirit and word of the Lord.
Yea, that stone lies firm in their hearts, and is so sealed by faith in them, that in their greatest need they regard neither father nor mother, wife nor child, money nor possessions, life nor death; for they are so constrained by veneration to God in their hearts, because Christ says, "Whosover therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven; but whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven," Matt. 10:32, 33; that they are not allowed to speak a false word, even to escape the hands of the bloodthirsty and the dangers of death; as may be seen.
But I fear, yea, indeed it is found to be the case, that the greater part of all those who call these poor innocent sheep, accursed heretics; who betray, catch, banish, take their lives and possessions, are not ashamed, nor tremble before their God who hates all lies, to use, for the sake of a stiver, yea for nay, and nay for yea, and yet dare boast of Christ and call themselves after his name. If they are such liars and so unfaithful in small things, what they would do in greater things where life and possessions come into requisition, as is the case with these poor sheep, may be easily imagined.
O reader, reflect. If the old, crooked serpent, with all his deception, falsehood and lies; lived in the christian hearts, as is the case with their persecutors, their goods would not be plundered, and their blood would not be shed. And they would not only conceal the truth, but they would with all the children of the devil hate and oppose it. All who are born of the truth, hate lies. Again, all who are born of lies, hate the truth. If they hate the truth, how can they speak it? especially when life and possessions are at stake. If our rulers and judges wish to be assured of this difference, let them call some of their evil doers before the judgment seat, who are guilty of death, and examine them in relation to things whereof they are accused; but without punishing them, what does it avail, though they would freely confess their guilt, for which they are to die, as these innocent children do in their faith? Yea, what is more, let your most high‑renowned monks, in their profession, caps, &c., your most accomplished priests in their terms and masses, be as severely tested as you do these, in their faith; then we will see what will become of all their professions, caps, terms and masses. But the common proverb is: The wolf escapes, but the lamb has to suffer.
109Since then, I say, all those who are born of the truth, and have Christ and his truth, and his Spirit, dwelling in their hearts, in such during their lives, and in death, we find nothing but the simple, plain truth of Christ, by which they are born unto righteousness, and are converted; yet it is manifest, that however piously, and unblamably they live, our lying, adulterous, lewd, idolatrous, drunken priests and monks (who openly rob God of his glory, and maliciously murder those whom Christ purchased with his precious blood, belie them before the whole world, betray and bring them to the stocks and posts, and all this for no other reason than that they are urged through the manifest truth, through their strong faith and through the Spirit and fear of the Lord, to renounce their leaven, vain, false doctrine and idolatrous sacraments, and with all their hearts, to live according to the will of God. O Lord! thus they live with those who seek and fear Thee with all their hearts.
Say, beloved lords, when shall this cruel, disgraceful murdering, bloody seed, be prevented by you from continuing in their Judas like conduct? When will you turn your backs to their deceiving lies, and turn your faces to Christ? When shall the innocent blood be wiped from your deadly and avenging sword, and again be put into the sheath? When will you hear and fear God, more than you do lords and princes? When shall the abominations of antichrist be rooted out of your heart, and instead thereof, the doctrine of Christ be planted therein? When will you be satisfied with pious and unblamable lives, and be satiated with the blood of innocent saints? When shall Christ Jesus, with his word, Spirit and life, through faith, be conceived in you, and in deed be born in you? I fear never. For you are earthly and carnally minded, the eyes of your understanding are darkened, that you desire the world rather than heaven; lies rather than truth; sin rather than righteousness; the honor and praise of man rather than that of God.
Yes, beloved lords, why say so much? With you it is the same as with the priests and preachers, who, through the instruction of Scripture, know the truth in part; but since they love their cross‑fleeing body more than God, they preach and teach only so far as the mandates and resolutions of the princes permit and suffer, so that they do not incur the displeasure of the world, and be deprived of their worldly honor, and their easy life. It is the same case with you, my dear lords. Though many of you well know that the teaching, ceremonies, divine service and life of your priests and preachers are untrue, deceiving, idolatrous, false and carnal, and that ours are the doctrine and ceremonies of the Lord, according to Scripture. Yet, in order to retain the friendship of the emperor, and your incomes I mean you who are guilty of blood, Christ Jesus with his innocent lambs must, without any mercy, if the mandates are enforced, as the ringleaders of all rogues and thieves, who are deserving of all torture and shame, be caught, banished, robbed and doomed to death. And then you say: The emperor's mandates judge you.
Beloved lords beware; the hour is fast approaching, that the Almighty, the great, and terrible God, the impartial, righteous Judge, will judge and sentence all our doings; then you will see too late, whom you have persecuted and pierced. Therefore, awaken in time, fear God, remember him, and reform, while it is yet called to‑day.
I entreat you, my reader, be not displeased that I have digressed so far; for it was not done without a cause. But now, we will continue in the name of the Lord, in the thing we have undertaken, and treat and teach as much of it, as the merciful Father will grant us grace and aid thereto, that we may modestly show to all the godfearing, who seek the truth from their hearts, the difference between faith and unbelief; the fruits of faith and of unbelief, and that they may grow in the true christian faith, until the gracious Father, out of the abundance of his glory, makes them strong in the inner man, by power, through the Spirit, and till Christ dwell in their hearts, through faith, that they may be rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend, with all saints, what is the breadth and length and depth and heighth, and to know the abundant love of Christ, which passes knowledge, and be filled with all the fullness of God. And besides, that they may know 110that it is all hatred and lying which the scribes teach and cast up, touching our faith concerning the sword, sedition, polygamy, &c. I speak of that, which I and my beloved brothers preach and teach, verbally or by writing, publicly or privately, to all the well disposed.
Cordially beloved brothers, when we can, with spiritual eyes, rightly see into the impure, abominable doctrine of faith, with all the abominable unbelief and blind evil life, resulting from such abominable doctrine of those, who boast themselves to be christians, then we may with propriety be astonished, yea, grieved to death at their great blindness and grievous errors. For however inhuman and rude, it must be called the holy christian faith.
|« Prev||THE TRUE CHRISTIAN FAITH.||Next »|