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REPLY TO A PUBLICATION
Pure and clear is wisdom; strong and powerful is truth; simple and desirable is righteousness; happy is he who possesses them, for his heart rejoices in the Lord, his mouth speaks what is right, and his feet are upon the way of peace.
IN THE first place, Gellius adduces the saying of Christ, as a warning to all his readers, where he speaks, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves," Matt. v:1s.
Answer. If the reader can rightly distinguish, according to the Spirit and word of God, between the nature of the sheep and the wolves, and understands what this sheep's clothing means, with which the ravening wolves are covered, then the saying would, undoubtedly, not be applied to us, but to our opponents; for in what kind of clothing he here appears, with which he keeps the simple in darkness and binds their souls to damnation, will be plainly and clearly shown, through the grace of God, to all the pious and godly readers, in the following reply, if they compare it with his writing.
In the second place he adduces Paul and says, " Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment," 1 Cor. 1:10.
Answer. If we well consider this saying, we will find that it admonishes all true christians not to live carnally nor to be sectarian; that the one shall not boast of this and another of that; but points us to the only and true Shepherd and Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ, who was crucified for us and in whose name we were baptized; all of which we, in our weakness, would gladly and earnestly do, by the grace and help of God, as our tribulation, misery, affliction, blood and death abundantly have testified in many different instances.
But Gellius so construes it as to keep his readers from the unity of the Spirit, word, house and body of Christ, and to keep them, through his deceitful doctrine, unscriptural infant‑baptism, &c., in the unity of the spirit, word, house and body of anti‑christ, and undisturbedly upon the broad way.
In the third place, Gelliushas addressed his writing to a nobleman, as is generally customary with the learned; thinking, perhaps, that by this means, their aim will be the easier attained, through the favor and assistance of such high officials; something which the pious testimonies, prophets and teachers of God's truth and word, especially of the New Testament never desired and much less sought.
In the fourth place Gellius gives his two principal reasons why he has published his writing. The first is, he says, Because I see that these anabaptists are daily coming into this country, secretly, from the imperial dominion, where they do and can do the most damage, and not only sow here anew, their pernicious seed by hedgepreaching, but also by publications, writings and private letters, which we must stop and silence lest the unwary be deceived, and that we may yet redeem some of them who have not yet become slanderers, &o.
Answer. These very offensive words, like 7anabaptists, secretly coming, hedge‑preaching, pernicious seed, &c., alas, plainly show the disposition of the man who penned them. Yes, my readers, Gellius knows as well as I do, what Christ has commanded concerning baptism, and how the holy apostles practiced it. Again, that Paul rebaptized some who were baptized of John (although John's baptism was from Heaven) only, because they were not informed concerning the Holy Ghost; that the worthy martyr Cyprian and the African bishops, together with the council of Nice, did not acknowledge the baptism of heretics, as baptism, on account of their being outside of Christ's church, and without his Spirit and word.
Notwithstanding all this, we must be called anabaptists; never minding that we, in our infancy were baptized, not only without the Spirit, faith, word or divine ordinance, but also without all reason and understanding, with an open, anti‑Christian baptism, by such as he and the learned of his class themselves call anti‑Christians, apostates, heretics and deceivers who neither rightly understand God nor his word; who practice open idolatry; who bend their knees before wood and stone; who put their trust in idle doctrines and commands of men; who unrestrainedly walk according to the lusts of the flesh, and who worship and honor a creature of God, namely, a piece of bread, as the only and eternal Son of God.
Although we have before us as a pattern, Christ's plain word and the salutary doctrine and open practice of the apostles, besides, Paul and both the councils, as heard; yet, alas, there are no bounds to offensive words, such as anabaptists, &c., which Gellius uses against us.
We may not retaliate, Rom. 12:19, else we might call them infant‑baptists with more propriety than they call us anabaptists; for we have the whole Scriptures on our side, but they have not one word nor one example. But his saying that we do and can do most damage in the imperial dominion, shows, alas, his stupidity and blindness.
All Scriptures teach us that idolaters and carnally‑minded shall die, and he well knows that in these countries, their (the world's), worship is nothing loss than open idolatry and gross abomination and that their life, as a general thing, is nothing but a reckless, impenitent and carnal life, as is the case at Emden and everywhere. Yet he dares to write that there they do most damage. And this he does for no other reason than because they (the pious) storm the kingdom of hell with the Lord's Spirit, word and power; rebuke open idolatry; teach the true worship; rightly confess Christ; and because they point out the true way to this perverse, impenitent and carnal generation. If this is damaging, as Gellius calls it, then the Scriptures which speak so over‑much of an unblamable, pious life, have badly deceived us; this you must admit. , what a wrong judgment.
Behold, thus does the god of this world blind such rebellious and contentious spirits, who so recklessly contend against the word of God and who do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, Rom. 2:8, that they become so obdurate and perverse that they call the glorious gain in Christ, attained through his grace, Spirit and power, a loss; and call good, evil, and evil, good; woe unto such, Isaiah G:20.
I would further say, that he also says, in other places that we are the only ones who obstruct them in their doctrine of impenitence and offensiveness, by our doctrine (which is not ours but the sound doctrine of Christ), and by our humble and unblamable walk which results from our doctrine through faith; and that we are thus the cause of their not being so highly esteemed as before and that they cannot continue in their ways, as they would like to do; therefore, perhaps, he complains that we do most damage there. But we say, It is because they serve the world under the semblance of the gospel, only from carnal motives; and flatter the rulers that they may aggrandize themselves with the property, church and cloister, which was intended (though wrongfully), as a sacrifice to the honor of God and that they may maintain the gospel of Christ by force of arms; because they flatter the people with the idea that Christ remitted our sins; that faith alone, avails; that they are poor, weak sinners who cannot keep the commandments of God, and other like idle consolations; so that everybody lives according8 to the lusts of his flesh, singing and crying, " The cord is loosed and we are free," and turn the grace of God into unrighteousness, as Jude says, 1:4; because they live in the old state of sinfulness, without any fear of God, as if they never in their lives heard one syllable of the word of the Lord, and as if God would not punish ungodliness and unrighteousness; therefore the just Lord who righteously judges all things, again takes from them the knowledge which they may have had, because of their ingratitude (for they, only teach and proclaim the gospel of his grace according to the lusts of the flesh) and give it to those who will bring forth fruit, as Christ spoke to the Pharisee, Matt. 21:43.
Again, to the unreasonable and offensive word "secretly enter," I reply: Moses and Christ, the apostles and prophets, as also, natural reason unanimously teach us that we should receive, comfort, help, assist and serve the miserable, afflicted and needy stranger; and it is a fact well known to Gellius that these poor children whom he afflicts, have tied in unfeigned fear of their God to a foreign country for protection, with their weak women and little children, to escape the bloody tyrannical sword; not on account of crime or roguery, but on account of the testimony of God and their consciences; even as the pursued doves flee from the bird of prey; and that we, through the grace of God place ourselves under the protection of this or that merciful and kind‑hearted ruler; and although they, for the sake of divine truth, are bereft of their native country, possessions and earthly comforts, yet they can, through God's grace, reasonably support themselves, as is promised in Scripture. If he were, in fact, what he boasts to be, namely, a preacher of the holy word, then his inmost soul would be moved to compassion towards these afflicted orphans and innocent hearts; he would be kind to them and assist them as much as is in his power; .he would intercede for them before the magistracy, since he may observe in them such a moving spirit and ardent zeal, that they stake their possessions and blood to the praise of their God, as may be openly witnessed. But, now, this misery and sore affliction namely, the flight from the gaping lion's mouth and from fire and sword, into more merciful countries, must be called by him "secretly entering." O, Lord!
What kind of a preacher and christian he is; how he acts according to love; and how he walks according to the word of the Lord in this respect, all reasonable persons who are not more than half blind may judge from these, his writings together with his daily cries of the same kind. To the slanderous sentence " sowing pernicious seed," I reply: Every seed bringeth forth fruit after its own kind, Gen. 1:11.
My dear reader take heed to what I write. God's word, on every hand, requires a pure heart, a new mind and a penitent, christian life, dead unto sin. John the Baptist says, "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance," Jesus says, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," Matt. 3:8; 4:17. Again, I am come to call sinners to repentance, Matt. 9:13, and many other Scriptures of the kind might be adduced.
Inasmuch, then, that the Scriptures, on every hand, require of us true repentance, and that also the sacramental signs, as baptism and Holy Supper signify, represent and teach to all true christian believers a penitent, unblamable life; and since, according to the tenor of the Scriptures, no one can be a true christian without true repentance and that every kind of seed brings forth fruit after its own kind, as already said, namely, lies, children of lies, and truth, children of truth; and since it is a fact well known to many reasonable persons that God has, through us and our fellow‑servants, in his great power and infinite grace, turned unto the true and living God, many a proud, avaricious, unchaste, cruel, lying, carnal and idolatrous heart and has so humbled, moved, renewed and changed them that they would rather die than act hypocritically, or willingly speak or countenance any falsehood against the well being of their neighbors, as is testified in our Netherlands by the precious blood of so many pious saints. And since the fruits of Gellius' seed, that is, his followers, remain so entirely impenitent in their lives and unchanged in their hearts that they live in pomp and splendor, go attired in silk 9and velvet and are decked with gold and silver; live in all manner of unrighteousness, avarice, carousing, hatred and envy; in short, live according to the lusts of the flesh, and would, for the sake of a penny, falsely swear by the Lord or by their soul, &c.; therefore we will let all reasonable and intelligent persons judge who of us bring forth bad fruits, Gellius and his followers, or we and our followers. Whoever sincerely seeks and loves the truth, read and ponder.
O, dear Lord! thus thy holy and precious word, the word of thy grace, the word of thy love, by the power and grace of which we will live eternally with thee, is called by this man and by others also, deceit and pernicious seed; and their open lies, obvious error and unreasonable adulteration of Scripture, of which more will be said hereafter, is called the true doctrine of Christ and the holy word of God. If it be wilful slander and perverseness, then, alas, it is too bad. But if it be ignorant blindness or misconception, then, the gracious Father grant them eyes to see. This is my sincere wish, as the Lord knows.
Again, he writes, " that we sow anew our pernicious seed, not only by hedge‑preaching, but also by publications, letters &c. To this I reply with holy David: We believe, therefore we speak, and must suffer tribulation. For since God, the merciful Father, has given us, poor creatures, the Spirit of faith and bestowed upon us the Spirit of his love from on high, through his Son Jesus Christ, and has besprinkled our hearts with the heavenly dew of his love, has opened unto us the seven seals of the book of his knowledge; has disclosed unto us the mystery of his divine word and pleasure; has awakened us from the dead and given us life, a new heart, mind and disposition, and has nourished us with the bread of life, so that we, through his grace, have found the beautiful pearl, the precious treasure and eternal peace, which we could not possibly acquire through the deceiving doctrine, subtle sophistry and false consolations of the learned; therefore we would teach, proclaim and imprint on the hearts of all mankind, to the best of our ability, this manifest grace of his great love toward us, that they may enjoy with us the same joy and renewal of spirit, and know and taste with all saints how sweet, good and kind the Lord is to whom we have turned.
We preach, therefore, as much as is in our power, both day and night, in houses and in the open air, in forests and in wildernesses, hither and thither, in this and in foreign lands, in prisons and in dungeons, in water and in fire, on the scaffold and on the wheel, before lords and princes, orally and by writings at the risk of possessions and blood, life and death; as we have done these many years; and are not ashamed of the gospel of the glory of Christ, Rom. l:18; for we are a living fruit, and strongly feel the moving power in our hearts, as may be seen in many instances by the commendable submissiveness and willing sacrifices of our faithful brethren and joint‑heirs in Christ Jesus.
We would save all mankind from the jaws of hell; deliver them from the chains of their sins, and by the gracious help of God, win them to Christ by the gospel of his peace; for this is the true nature of the love which is of God.
He then accuses us of preaching at night, and says in another place " That we secretly enter into cities and towns, from fear of the cross; that we sit with closed doors to treat with the simple; not to convert them to true christianity but to convert them to anabaptism," &c. To which I reply in the first place: It is true that we sometimes have to serve the Lord and preach his word at night (in the dead of night), but I fear that Gellius and the learned are the principal cause of this: For they have so embittered and still embitter all lords, princes, rulers and magistrates against us by their fiendish, unmerited upbraiding, slandering and defaming that we cannot, alas, so much move them, with Scripture,‑ supplications, tears, misery, tribulation, loss of possessions, blood or life, that we can safely go about, verbally to defend the word of God, before these open enemies of the cross of Christ and of wholesome truth; but we must (understand, we teachers) everywhere conceal ourselves in shops and retired places to escape the persecutors and blood‑thirsty, if we do not wish to be, at once, torn up and devoured 10by the terrible beasts which arise from the sea.
Beloved readers, observe well what I write. Gellius accuses us of "preaching at night." It was in the year 1543; if my memory serves me right, that a decree was read throughout West Friesland, " That criminals and even manslayers were promised pardon, imperial grace, freedom of country (in those times banishing was in vogue), and besides one hundred earl‑guilders, if they would betray me and deliver me into the hands of the executioner."
About the year 1539, a husbandman, who was a very pious man, named Tjaert Reyndertz, was seized in my stead, because, out of pity and compassion, he concealed me in his house while I was hotly pursued; and was a few days thereafter, put on the wheel, after a free confession of faith, as a valiant soldier of Christ, after the example of his Lord; although his enemies, even, acknowledged that he was an unblamable, pious man.
Also, in 1546, at a place where they boasted of the word, four houses were at once confiscated, because the owner had rented one of them for a short time, to my sick wife and little ones; although the neighbors were not aware of their presence.
What decrees have been issued against some of us, and what rewards have been offered for our apprehension, in different dominions and cities; what imperial mandates and Roman condemnations have been resolved against us; and how we are treated on every hand, is well known to Gellius and to the preachers of his class. That they are the very cause and the authors of these things, I unreservedly write and testify without fear. Behold, thus they hate all those who rightly teach God's word.
Notwithstanding this, Gellius and others are not ashamed to say, "That we, out of fear of the cross, secretly enter cities and towns, sit with closed doors," &c., as if we were stones, and blocks of wood, which neither do nor can fear any deathly evils; while he and his, well know that the chosen men of God, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Aaron, besides the prophets and apostles, nay, even Christ himself, so feared to die that they sometimes took to Right.
In the second place, I say, that so long as I, poor weak man, have served the„pious with my small talent, I have taught more, by far, in day‑time than at night. The Lord, is my witness that I write the truth‑ Yet we must be upbraided by these perverse people as night and hedge‑preachers, as if the word of God could not be taught any where but in their houses of abomination (who know not the Scriptures), and as if God was not a God of the night as well as of the day. O, perverseness.
Say, reader, was not the night pure unto faithful Moses, and all Israel to eat the passover ? Exodus 12:3‑8. Did Christ think it wrong to oxhort Nicodemus at night? John 3:2. Did he not partake, with his disciples, of the Holy Supper, at night, just before his suffering, Matt. 26:26; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:23. Did not the church assemble at night, when Peter was delivered from the hands of the tyrant by the aid of an angel, out of fear of Herod and the Jews? Acts 12:7. Did not holy Paul at night preach the word in an upper chamber at Troas, and break the Lord's bread with the disciples, just before his leaving? Acts 20:7. Did not the saints of the primitive church sometimes meet at night to break the Lord's bread and drink the holy cup? for which they were suspicioned and had to hear and bear many hard names. Does not Hilarius write, that the apostles met in halls and retired places, and that they traveled through many countries and nations, by water and by land, against the prohibitions and decrees of the rulers.
Behold, my readers, whether that which was allowable and free to Moses, Israel, Christ, the apostles and to the primitive churches, namely, the service and preaching of the word of God at night, is free to us or not, especially in these critical times of tyranny, we will let the intelligent reader judge according to Scripture, in the fear of his God.
O Lord! thus they (the world) seek causes, encumbrances and complaints to offend thy poor children more and more and to burden them with the cross, that they may persecute and kill them, in semblance of justice; for they are an obstacle to their works and a smarting to their eyes.
11In the third place I say, that I have heretofore twice offered publicly to treat with them on Scripture, under safe conduct, before twenty or thirty witnesses or before a full meeting. But what kind of answer I received, their message, which I yet possess, testifies. Afterwards, in the memorable times of bishop Herman, Elector of Ceulen, at their own request, I offered this same thing again to the learned men of Bon, but my offer was rejected, on account of these kind gentlemen being dissuaded by John A'Lasco and A. g.; by their accusing me of three falsehoods, such as I never thought of and much less said or advised, and which I, for good reasons will not now touch upon, for all of which I have the testimony of a manuscript of a preacher, named Henricus. But what their intentions were, in regard to this matter, I will leave to him who knows all things. Also, the preachers of Wesel, in the land of Kleef, pretended that they would furnish me safe conduct and treat with me, &c.; but when I signified my willingness, in writing, I received an answer that they would let the executioner treat with me; and other tyrannical and unchristian words.
I will yet speak of what I asked in my "Foundation;" in the " Preface to the Twenty‑fifth Psalm," many years ago; also in my "Excuse," in the "Supplication to the Magistracy," and also in my "Message to the Learned and Preachers of the German Nations," who boast of the word, concerning a free Treatise on Scripture, published in the year 1552. And I am still willing and prepared, at all times, so long as breath remains in me, or my intellect does not fail me, and so long as I can sit on a wagon or lay in a ship, to appear before Gellius, or anybody else, verbally to defend the foundation of our faith and to testify to the truth of Jesus Christ, if I can do so in safety, in good, christian faith and in sincerity of heart, to the praise of our God, to the extension of his church, to the promulgation of his holy word and to the salvation of our neighbors. This is the main desire of my heart, that I may preach and promulgate his great, adorable name, teach his word, seek his gain and honor and exalt and defend his praise, to the best of my humble ability.
Since it is manifest that the world is, unjustly, so embittered against us, that we are, alas, not suffered to be heard or seen; and that many an innocent, pious sheep, who is not a teacher, is sent hither and thither to be slaughtered by the sword, water or fire, without any mercy; and that we, miserable teachers, are not allowed to live in safety, any where under the broad canopy of heaven, not even in a pig‑sty (so to speak), if known; but that we, through open mandates, are already judged before we are delivered, and condemned before we are seized; something which never, as far as we know, transpired since the apostolic times; therefore, I pray all my readers for God's sake, that they will, ‑in the fear of God, thoughtfully consider what gross injustice Gellius and his followers have done us, by the use of such wrong and bitter words, as night‑preaching, hedge preaching, conspiracy, secretly entering, &c., when we neither can nor dare do otherwise, as is well known. Besides, we have on our side Moses and Christ, the apostles and also the example of the primitive church; who served the Lord at night as well as in day time, as has been already heard; and we are also prepared, at all times, to render an account of our faith and to defend the truth; if we can do so in good, christian faith, without deceit and shedding of blood, as has been already said.
I say farther: It is by far more praiseworthy to teach the genuine, saving truth, at night, in a secret corner, when we can not openly meet in day‑time, than to proclaim, in day‑time, deceiving lies and a powerless doctrine of impenitence, from the pulpit; as has, alas, been openly done these many years before the whole world; this must be acknowledged and admitted; for the disorderly state of affairs and the impenitent life of this generation testify to it.
At his saying, that we should be stopped and silenced, lest we deceive the unwary (single) as he calls them, I reply: A better and surer way than the one we have by the grace of God, nobody can point out; of this we are convinced from the inmost of our soul. For we acknowledge and feel that we 12have the word of God. Nevertheless, we will always freely accept, and willingly follow the instruction of any pious person, who can, in the fear of God, convince us by the Spirit, word, example, commands, ordinances, prohibitions and usages of the Lord, and not by tyranny and violence, and point out any thing that would be more useful and better; to greater honor to God, or more to the edification of his church, than we have followed and confessed during several years of manifest truth, and to which we have unwaveringly testified in so exceedingly much anxiety, misery, tribulation and persecution. For all things in Christ's church that shall avail and stand before his throne must be judged by the Spirit, word, example, commands, ordinances, prohibitions and usages of the Lord. I trust that those who seek and sincerely fear the Lord, will agree with me in this respect.
But with this writing of Gellius he will, surely, not convince us; for it is full of brawling, profanity, defamation, false accusations, tyranny, sophistry, wrong explanations and false doctrines (if I am wrong, rebuke me); so that it does not silence the pious, as was his intention, but makes them still more active; and it will be the cause of strengthening salutary doctrine and truth, and thus be the cause of his loss where he intended to make gain. For I trust, when both our writings are compared one with another, that, through the grace of God, a glorious, clear light will be thrown on the church of Christ; while it will expose to the plain and humble whom he intends, by it, to dissuade from our doctrine what his own nature, works, writings and fruits are, and, by comparing them to Christ's plain word, Spirit, example, ordinances and usages prove to them how earthly and carnal‑minded he and his are; how he exercises his profession; what he seeks; what are the fruits of his doctrine; what sacraments he uses; what ban he practices, and what kind of church he holds to, &c.
I would, therefore, faithfully admonish and pray him, not to undertake more than he can accomplish; and not to kick against the pricks, Acts 9:5, for it will not avail him. But he should remember that many a learned man (not that I esteem learning, if at all opposed to Christ), in past times as well as at present, has industriously tried it, as he now does; but what has been accomplished by it, the fruits openly testify. For some of them have become such zealots against us that they have made themselves guilty of innocent blood; they have grossly offended and condemned to the judgment of the devil, so many pious and faithful hearts, who, through fear and love of their God, dared not walk with them on the broad road; have, besides, written and contended so much for the unity of their churches, that they have brought the poor, reckless people to such a disorderly and wild state, that they, generally speaking, lead such a fruitless, impenitent life that it seems as if never prophetic or apostolic doctrine had been taught, and as if never Christ nor the holy Spirit had appeared on earth.
Had they, now, wisely, obediently and humbly comprehended, listened to and followed the word and ordinance of the Lord, the usage and example of the apostles; had they sincerely feared their God; had they not acted hypocritically with lords and princes, and the world in general; but taught the doctrine in true zeal without any respect of persons or favors; had they faithfully, unto death, rebuked the sins of all mankind, of high and low station alike, with doctrine and with life; had they unwaveringly served God and obediently proclaimed the gospel, in such a manner as to have assembled and built up unto the Lord a truly, penitent people, that is, a true church, according to the example of the apostles; had they not sought their own gain and ease; and had they also not abused and slandered the pious and godly, by their crying and writing; then the precious word, Christ's glorious gospel of grace never would have been profaned so lightmindedly; nor would this poor, unwary people have been degenerated into this wild and reckless state, as, alas, may now be witnessed in all parts of the world.
Thus, I fear, it will be with Gellius; for of what use his preaching and church‑service have been these many years, toward bringing about a pious, penitent life in the fear of God, I will let the world judge by his disciples, who are the fruit of his seed.
13O, that he would take heed, and not break God's holy and precious word; that he would not slander the pious and godly, who testify to it with their heart, mouth, life and death; that he would learn to know his own envious, impure and bitter heart; his deceiving, inconsistent and infamous doctrine, and his selfish, ambitious flesh; and would humble. himself under, the mighty hand of God, as the Scriptures teach us to do, for then he might yet be saved. But as it is, I fear that his brawling, slandering and condemning of all the pious; together with his seeking after improper gain, favor and honor of men and the desire of an easy, careless life, will so entirely close his heart and bewilder his senses, that he will not acknowledge or desire the glorious brightness of Christ, nor the wisdom which is of God. God grant that my apprehension be not realized, and that he may yet receive grace; this is my sincere wish toward him and all of our opponents, Amen.
Gellius says further, that hehas published his writing for the purpose of redeeming some of our followers, who have not yet become slanderers; and he says also, that some have been redeemed through their faithful services, who now, with united hearts and spirits adore, praise and thank their Lord andGod, at the public meetings of the church of God and Christ (these are his words), because they have been delivered from death and damnation, and now feel a delight in Christ, and penitence and peace in their hearts.
Answer. If we, in true, christian zeal and unfeigned love, rebuke or reprove their false doctrine, deceiving, unscriptural sacraments and their reckless, carnal life, with the Spirit, word and life of Christ, and point them to the glorious example of the prophets, of the apostles, of Christ and of all the true servants of God, he calls us slanderers. From this it may be observed that our work of love is ever interpreted to the contrary. For if we write or speak mournfully, it is called sighing and groaning, if we reprove sharply, it is called brawling and slandering. If we pipe, they dance not; if we mourn, they lament not, as Christ says, Matt. 11:17. It is wrongly spoken, whatever we say_ to the perverse. Although they commit abomination, yet they are not ashamed, neither do they blush, Jeremiah 8:12.
If the reproof of open sin, in true, christian love, according to the word of God, is slander, as Gellius calls it, then all the saints of God, the apostles and prophets, as also Jesus Christ himself were slanderers; this is incontrovertible; for they called the false prophets and preachers, false teachers, deceivers, dumb dogs, blind guides, hypocrites, thieves, murderers, wolves, cunning devisers, enemies of the cross, servants of their bellies, children of damnation, dry clouds, dead trees, locusts, &c., before the whole world. But no. To openly reprove deceit, transgressions, blasphemy of God or his word and sin in general is not slandering, as Gellius, through perverseness of heart, pronounces it against the innocent; but it is the fruit of the faithful love of those who would oppose evil and do good unto all. I will leave it to the judgment. of all pious and reasonable persons, if he is not a profaner of the church, a brawler and a slanderer, and guilty of innocent blood, who calls the church of God a conspiracy; the regenerated children of God, apostatical anabaptists; the salutary doctrine of Christ, sectarianism and fanaticism; who slanders and condemns the baptism which Christ commanded, and the apostles taught and practiced, as being a heresy; and falsely maintains and practices on the poor, ignorant people, the baptism of anti‑christ, with many high‑sounding words and phrases? Who promises grace and peace to the proud, obdurate, avaricious, carnal and impenitent boaster, whom all Scriptures judge unto death; because he can, in appearance talk of the Scriptures, although without Spirit, power or change of heart; who, without just cause, maliciously slander, falsely suspicions, and unjustly condemns, the poor orphans and afflicted christians who sincerely seek and fear the Lord; and thus delivers them to the magistracy to be put in dungeons, and to the executioner to be killed.
But as to his boasting, that some of our brethren have again associated with them, and thus others may be yet redeemed by his writing, &c. I answer, in the first place: Christ says, "Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be 14that find it," Matt. 7:13, 14. My readers, observe that all who wish to leave the broad way and enter upon the narrow one, must' enter in at the strait gate, must forsake themselves, take up the cross and follow Christ Jesus; must become regenerated christians, dead unto sin; must crucify their flesh and subdue their lusts; must give up, through the power of faith all visible and perishable things, as gold, silver, home and goods, nay, wife and children; together with all they are and have, for the victory of Christ, if circumstances and the honor of Christ require it; they must be prepared to endure disgrace, hunger, misery, pillage, persecution, bonds and death, for the sake of the testimony of God and their consciences, and must adhere to the word of God, by watching and praying; for all those who are yet laden with the burden of unrighteousness and an evil conscience, as with avarice, ungodly desires, the works of the flesh, &c.; or who feel at all doubtful concerning the word and promises of the Lord cannot enter in at the narrow way and strait gate. Let every one be aware of this.
In the second place I say, that the edification and faith of the true christians is tempted in many and various ways, as both Scriptures and experience clearly teach and testify. Now they are tempted by flesh and blood, which never is at rest, then by the lust of the world, and the lust of the eyes, which invitingly tempt the selfish flesh in which no good thing dwelleth, Rom. 7:18. Again, by the cross and tribulation, which often press heavily; and lastly, by the flattering preaching of peace and the easy doctrine of the preachers who lustily cry, Peace, peace, as the prophet says, Jer. 8:11, by means of which they console the timid in their faithlessness and disobedience to God, and make an easy way for those who would enjoy the world according to the lusts of the flesh. It is as Peter says, " While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption," 2 Peter 2:19. For this reason, some of the seed which is sown by the way side, is picked up by the fowls of the air; some is sown on stony places, where there is not much earth, and although it springs up in a short time; yet it can not stand the scorching sun of persecution, and some is choked by the thistles and thorns, and brings forth no ripe ears, Matt. 13:4‑'7.
Behold, the proper reason why some timid, light‑minded, carnal, corrupt and selfish spirits have again associated themselves with them, is, Because the way was too narrow and the gate too strait for them, and they could not withstand the storming of the flesh. The smiles of the world were too inviting, and the tyranny too oppressive. The thousand wiles of Satan, by which all the pious alike are tempted, succeeded; because, alas, they preferred earthly to heavenly things, and therefore we could no longer live in unity of spirit and peace with them. For they would not be thus subjected, as the prophet laments, Jer. 2:17; but would follow their own inclinations in every respect, and walk, without the cross, on the broad way of the flesh, with the world. But by the writings and services of Gellius, they were, surely, not redeemed, as he boasts they were.
Behold, these people of whom he so loudly boasts, were such (we regret to have to say it) as, with Demas, 2 Tim. 4: .10, loved the present world, and who so lived with us for some time that we, according to the divine word, dare no longer eat and drink with them. They are not regenerated as Gellius claims, but they are degenerated in their faith and act hypocritically, with earthly‑minded hearts under the feint of prayer; they have not forsaken the broad way which leads to death but the narrow way which leads to life; they do not delight in Christ but have forsaken him; they have found rest for their flesh but not for their souls, through repentance, as Gellius pretends. For facts prove whose cause is right, theirs or ours; whose actions are hypocritical, and whose are not, while our actions sacrifice possessions, blood and even life for their cause; but what theirs do, is well known.
This, then, is my conclusion as to his first reason given, why he published his writing; namely, As the angel of darkness can transform himself into an angel of light; as Paul says, 2 Cor. 11:14; can feign love and make great promises; can feign true 15confession of Christ and can use Scriptures masterly, so also, can his servants do, as may be seen by this. For Gellius says he published his writing that he might redeem some and save others from deceit; to silence the anabaptists, as he calls them; to root out the pernicious weeds; to serve the church of Christ; to keep the weak of the Netherlands in the right understanding of evangelical doctrine and the right use of the holy sacraments, &c. But if we rightly consider it, and judge it by the Spirit, word and example of Christ; by the usage of the holy apostles and primitive apostolic churches, we find it to be nothing but an institution of the flesh; an encouragement to the impenitent; an inducement to the broad way; a defence of the churches of anti‑christ; a confusing and blind‑folding of the simple; a covert instigation to persecution of the pious; a destroying of the church of Christ; a dextrous encumbering of the godly; an unreasonable, envious defamation of .the saints; an adulteration of the holy word; yea, an open encouragement to unrighteousness, impenitence and carnal liberty.
Behold, this is the effect, fruit and aim of his writing; although he adorns and covers it under the semblance of good intentions and love. If I should at any time yet meet with him, and not be able to verify these assertions, by their fruits and by virtue of the Scriptures, then I will be willing to recant them and bear my shame; for I trust that I, through the grace of God, know of what I write.
An other reason, says Gellius, why he published his writing is, because a nobleman to whom he addressed it, offered to bear the expenses of printing it, &c.
Answer. Zeal is a good thing and highly commendable, if in a good cause to the service and glory of God. But let every one well consider how, why and wherefore he is zealous; lest he make himself guilty of innocent blood, which is the most abominable sin next to sinning against the Holy Ghost.
If his honor has done this in sincere zeal and with good intentions, as Paul did before his conversion, and meant it to be to the honor of God and to the salvation of his neighbors, then I hope that God will give him more light and make truth more manifest to him. But if he has done it for the sake of an idle name or fame, or for the sake of carnal profit and satisfaction, something which the learned can very adroitly portray to such high persons; or, if he .contends against the people of God with a bitter zeal, which I trust is not the case, as does Gellius and the preachers, generally, then his action has become such a gross sin and great blindness that I fear he will never be brought to confess Christ.
I would therefore cordially admonish his honor, and beseech him in christian love that he no more burden himself with the sin of others; fqr he and every‑body else will have burden enough of his own, at the day of judgment. All misleading of the miserable souls; all unbelief and idolatry; all lightmindedness and liberty of the flesh; together with all uproar and tyranny which are apt to be the result of his writing will be required, in the day of Christ, at his hands as well as at the hands of the preachers, if not repented of, because he assists and supports them in their abomination with his advice and assistance, with money and material.
Therefore, in my opinion, his honor would have better first considered the matter well and laid out these expenses to the support, assistance, consolation, nourishment and clothing of the needy, especially in these hard times; and not for the purpose of deceiving many unwary hearts and of putting more encumbrances and persecution on the pious.
Again, that Gellius has published his writing under the permission of the said nobleman, has an appearance as if he was one of those who honor and esteem a person according to the measure of his usefulness. But for what reason he has done so; what his seeking and how his heart is, in this matter, I will leave to the Lord who knows all things.
Experience sufficiently teaches of what disposition the rich are, namely, proudhearted, ambitious and covetous of honor. God's wisdom did not say without a cause, Verily, "I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God," Matt. 19:24. James also says, " Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for 16your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth‑eaten; your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire," &c., James 6:1‑3. Again, Paul says, " For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called," &c., 1 Cor. 1:26.
Since, then, the mouth of the Lord, as also his faithful servants, James and Paul, have so plainly expressed the dangers of the rich and of those of high standing; since experience teaches how proud‑hearted they are, as may be educed from their high titles, houses, shields, medals, clothes, servants, horses and dogs; and since Christ says, " Verily I say. unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven," Matt. 18:3; therefore it would be more in accordance with evangelical righteousness, if Gellius, instead, would industriously teach such proud hearts and high persons, the humility of Christ, so that they may learn to forsake themselves; may learn to know themselves, of what they are born, what they are and what they will be; that they may die unto their excessive pomp, splendor, superfluity and ungodliness; may fear God in all sincerity, and walk in his ways; that they may faithfully serve their neighbors, with their abundance, in true humility of heart, and not continually enkindle the fire of pride, fleshly security and light‑mindedness, by his flattery or by high‑sounding and supplicating phrases; for the inborn ambitious nature of the flesh of Adam's children is, alas, already too apt to crave such things without being encouraged by flattery and smooth words.
I would, therefore, faithfully admonish all to fear God, to strive after truth and to love their neighbors; for the time is coming, and is near at hand that we all shall hear, each one at his time, "Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward," Luke 16:2. I do not dedicate this my reply and defense to this or that one, as is the custom of the learned, but dedicate it, in christian humility, "To the pious Reader," and desire to subject it to the judgment of all the godly and pious.
If any one under the broad canopy of heaven can teach me with plainer Scriptures or with more powerful truths, whether he be learned or unlearned, man or woman, I will gladly accept of such instruction and obey them. But, by the grace of God, we are convinced that we are on the sure and true way which Christ has prepared for us. Blessed are we if we walk in it and enter in at the strait gate. Let all of understanding minds, who, in true zeal and in the fear of God, seek the praise of their Lord, read and judge that which now follows.
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