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LETTERS WRITTEN BY MENNO SIMON.1717The first two of these letters, in the complete works of Menno Simon, are found at the close of the volume, but as one of those to the brethren in Amsterdam has appeared at the close of both the English and German editions formerly published we give them both, together with two other of Menno's letters a place here. THE PUBLISHER.
A Dissuasion to all the brethren and sisters in Christ, living at Amsterdam and there about, not to attend the papal worship; because they do not feed the hungry souls with the bread of the divine word, but with the leaven of human doctrine.
"Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man," Lev. 19:32.
"Look at the example of the old," Sirach 2:11
"Whatever you hear and accept, keep that in your heart, and you shall have peace," Laodis. 1:13.
"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus. Christ," 1 Cor. 3:11.
To ALL the true children of God, and partakers of the Promise of the Kingdom of Christ, grace and peace be with you.
My beloved in Christ Jesus, I am troubled at heart for your sakes, inasmuch as I hear that you hunger and thirst after righteousness, and that there are so few carvers, who rightly cut the bread of the divine word for the hungry consciences, and that there are so few shepherds who rightly pasture the sheep of Christ, and that there are so few masons to rightly adjust the living stones in the temple of the Lord; so few watchmen who rightly watch the city, the new Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet; that there are so few fathers to beget the children of God, and so few to nourish and feed these begotten ones, but that every thing is to the contrary. For those who truly serve in that capacity do not deny the bread, nor the children to whom it belongs.
And had they the bread by which the soul lives, not so many children would famish, while they distribute the bread once or twice a week (understand, the bread necessary to support the body). Inasmuch as they give the eggs of cockatrices unto the people, therefore observe what the prophet says concerning them, "He that eateth of their eggs dieth," Isa. 59:6; John 6:58.
Again, concerning the shepherds who pass themselves for shepherds of Christ, who pasture the sheep for the sake of their own selves, as Ezek. 34:8 says, For you see how little they care for the sheep; they do not care whether they have pasture or not. If they only get the wool and milk they are satisfied. They pass themselves for shepherds, but they are deceivers; for they are widely different from the shepherds of which we read in Jeremiah. Shepherds after his heart, whom the Holy Spirit has sent; for they have not the love of Christ which Peter had, and therefore Christ has not commanded them to pasture his lambs; if they are not commanded to do so, namely, if they are not sent, how can they then preach, inasmuch, as they are not divine shepherds who lead the sheep into the green pastures of the divine word, but let them famish.
277They are not the shepherds who lead them to the limpid waters, but they lead them to the stagnant pools which they have clarified with their feet, that is, by their glazings and good opinions, Ezek. 34:19.
They also pass themselves for joiners who build the Lord's house; but they know not Christ, the corner stone; they never adjusted a stone in the house of the Lord, namely, of the living stones which are built into a spiritual building, which building is the church of God, Heb. 3:6: For wherever there are two or three stones together, cemented by the cement of love, there they busy themselves to break them down, and to destroy them, as you may see verified in all countries and cities. O, how different are they from those of whom Paul says, "Ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building," and we are God's laborers, namely, such as should build the house of the Lord according to his word, 1 Cor. 3:9.
If they, then, be no builders they must be those who break down. They also pretend to be the husbandmen who take care of the vineyard. How they take care of it, and protect it against all wild animals, I will leave every christian to consider for himself. How they seek the profit of the Lord of the vineyard, and how they give him the usury or honor, the Lord of the vineyard knows. He also knows how they scourge, rob, hunt, banish and kill his children, for no other cause than that they neither do nor dare consent to them, inasmuch as they see that they are not the true husbandmen, but destroyers, Matt. 10:17; 21:34.
Yet they pass themselves for watchmen. If they are watchmen they are blind watchmen and dumb dogs which cannot bark, Isa. 56:10. Hosea, the prophet, shows what they watch for, and how they blow the trumpet, Hosea 4. How far they are from the word of the Lord, which says, "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman," Ezek. 3:17. "Lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression," Isa. 58:1.
They want to be fathers who bring forth the children of God and nourish them. But how can they beget children, when they have never rightly conceived. O, how different they are from the fathers of whom Paul speaks, "Ye have not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel," 1 Cor. 4:15; "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you," Gal. 4:19. Here observe, who are the fathers of the true children. Now show me one child they have begotten, namely, one child which was born of God through the gospel. Paul also says, "I have fed you with milk," 1 Cor. 3:2, "even as a nurse cherisheth her children," 1 Thess. 2:7.
Behold, sincerely beloved brethren and sisters in Christ Jesus, you will observe that you have few carvers who cut the sweet bread, but it is leaven which they give you; that they are not shepherds who pasture the sheep, but wolves that destroy them; that they are not builders that build the temple, but they break down that which was built; that they are not husbandmen who protect the vineyard of the Lord, and give him his rent, but they are false husbandmen which scourge, stone, torture and kill the servants, as you, alas, may plainly see; that they are not the watchmen who watch over the city of Jerusalem and warn her of the enemy, but they betray the citizens and kill them; that they are not fathers nor nurses, but they kill that which was begotten and nourished, as Pharaoh, king of Egypt, killed the true Israelites which he could lay hold on. Therefore it is necessary to separate from them and to shun them, as we read in Matt. 7:15, "Beware of false prophets;" and Paul says, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ," Col. 2:8.
The church of Christ is the bride of Christ, and he will not that his bride conceive but of the incorruptible seed, 1 Pet. 1:23, as Paul says, "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ," 2 Cor. 11:2. Yea, Paul would have the bride or church so pure, that if there were any who caused divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which they had learned, they should be avoided.
278Yea, if they had any in the church that were drunkards, covetous, fornicators, idolatrous or proud, they should avoid them and not eat with them, 1 Cor, 5:11. How, then, could they suffer such to preach? Yea, if they preached any other gospel than that which was preached unto them, they should be accursed, Gal. 1:8.
To the Philippians Paul says, "Beware of dogs, beware of evil‑workers, beware of the concision," and says, "Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an example; for many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things," Phil. 3:2, 1, 19. Mark to what kind of people he refers.
The apostle would have the bride so pure that no dissension was allowed, no drunkards, covetous, idolaters, nor those that taught any other doctrine than he taught; and Christ himself says to the church, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves, ye shall know them by their fruits," Matt. 7:1, therefore I will leave all intelligent christians to judge what those do that say that they are at liberty to do as they do. Shall we, who pretend to uphold the glory of God, grant it as a liberty to go where God is blasphemed, and his ordinances broken? It was commanded Aaron to serve in the priest's office. When Dathan and Abiram would serve as such, why did the earth open its mouth and swallow them, if it was free to them? Num. 16:32. The children of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu would always let the fire burn on the altar. If it were allowed now, to put strange fire upon it, then why were they burned? Lev. 10:1, 3.
Read how the worshipers of the calf, the murmurers and the fornicators, all received their punishment, Exodus 32; Numb. 21:5, 6; 25:8, 9. Yea the man of God at Bethel, how free was it to him, when God had said unto him that he should not, in that place eat bread nor drink water, when by the lies of the old prophet he did eat and drink contrary to God's command? It was so free that he had to die for it, 1 Kings 13.
There are very many Scriptures upon that point which I will leave for the sake of brevity. But I would that every christian should do as Christ teaches us, saying, "Search the Scriptures," John 5:39. Those of Berea, searched the Scriptures daily, Acts 1:11.
If he commands you to beware of false, prophets, Are you then at liberty either to do so or not? What kind of officers would you be, if the emperor should issue a decree and the subjects disregard it (take it as a liberty), if you did not punish them for not regarding it?
Now, the chief Emperor (Christ), has issued a decree, which decree he has sealed with his blood, and in this decree it reads, that we must be born again, repent, deny ourselves, take upon ourselves the cross, believe on Jesus Christ, and on our faith be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and to obey his commandments, Matt. 28:19; to "render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's;" to love the Lord with all our heart and with all our strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves; not to live unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us and rose again; to "beware of false prophets," and to "abstain from all appearance of evil," Matt. 22:21; Luke 10:27; 2 Cor. 5:15; Matt. 7:16; 1 Thess. 5:22.
Now say, most beloved, which of these are we at liberty to do or not to do? Are we at liberty to be born again or not? Are we at liberty to deny ourselves, or to believe on Christ, or not? To be baptized, to give unto Caesar that which is due him, and unto God that which is his, to beware of false prophets, and to abstain from all appearance of evil or not? If we are at liberty to observe these or not, just as we see proper, why does the Lord Jesus then say at the conclusion, And teach them to keep my commandments? Matt. 28:19. If, now, he has commanded it, he desires it to be obeyed279. That which is free is neither commanded nor prohibited, as Paul says in regard to eating and the keeping of certain days, 1 Cor. 10:28. Yet he commands not to offend the brethren by such liberty.
Now, beloved children, if you confess that Christ Jesus is the Son, in his house, then let him be wise enough to rule; for he has bought this house with his blood, and has delivered the bondmen. Some he has made pastors and teachers, and Paul teaches us how they should be minded. If you go to the papistic teachers, whom you know beforehand as not being sent of Christ, and therefore bear no fruit, are you then obedient unto the voice of the Lord? O, no, Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 3; Rom. 10:15.
Since the Holy Spirit directs to those that are unblamable, and since you go to those that are blamable both in doctrine and in life, and since Christ has commanded to beware of such, and as you go to hear them, saying, I am at liberty—therefore judge for yourselves whether you are a child of God or not. And, if you say thus you are at liberty, then I ask you, Who gave you this liberty? Paul says, "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's," 1 Cor. 6:19. By what means then can you obtain this liberty?
Christ Jesus has also commanded his church to baptize believers on the confession of their faith. If I, now, do not believe, and do not suffer myself to be baptized in accordance with God's word, but suffer my little children to be baptized, without God's word, Am I then, obedient unto the voice of the Lord? Can I then inherit the promise given to the believing?
Christ ordained in his church the Holy Supper, bread and wine, in rememberance of his death; now it is changed into a Roman mercery. Is a christian now allowed to keep the perplexing, papal day‑meal, and neglect the Lord's Supper? Judge for yourselves, since Paul says, "Ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table and of the table of devils," 1 Cor, 10:21. If we cannot partake of both, then we must neglect one or the other. O, beware of them!
Behold, beloved children, I have here given you some instruction according to the limited talents which the Lord has given me. Judge whether it would be becoming in a married woman to be with another man, if it were but once a year. So, if you be the bride of the Lamb, then you are not allowed to conceive of any body but of Christ, and his holy word. If you be the body of Christ then you must have the Spirit of Christ; if you are baptized into the body by the Spirit, then you must be obedient unto the Head, which is Christ. If you be in the city, the New Jerusalem, whose citizens are of one mind, then you must be obedient unto the King of that great city, namely, unto Christ. If you be the branches, then you must bear fruit like unto that of the stock. If you be the vineyard of the Lord, then beware of the foxes. If you be the temple of the Lord, then you must be submissive unto your High Priest. If you be the ark of the covenant, then the tables of the covenant, which are written with the finger of God, namely, the commandments of God, must be engraven in your hearts, that all men may read that you are an epistle of Christ, 2 Cor, 3:2, 3.
O, beloved children, that the Lord would grant that we might verbally speak together, we trust that we could satisfy you on all points. Therefore you that fear God, separate from Babel, and go to Jerusalem, and do not suffer yourselves to be ensnared by such light‑minded, artful words as, "I am at liberty." The drunkard may drink to excess, the gambler, gamble, the whoremonger indulge in his carnal passions, notwithstanding it is sin; likewise, we are at liberty to hear false doctrine, or to suffer infants to be baptized, yet it is unscriptural, and therefore sin. I herewith commend my beloved children to the Lord. May the rich Word of his grace enlighten you with his pure knowledge and grant that you do his will in all things, that the fallen temple may again be built upon its true foundation and that we may obtain the end of faith, that is, the salvation of souls, Amen.
November 14. 280
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