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INCONTROVERTIBLE CONFESSION, &C.
In the first place, John A'Lasco writes, "That I have magnified his name so that I might, on account of the correspondence I had with him, obtain greater honor, more consideration and authority among ours" (as he calls them).
Answer. It is true that I called him the noble and highly‑learned, &c., in my confession to him and the preachers; but I did this for no other reason than simply to be polite. I did not picture him in such hateful colors as he did me; he calling me a doctor or teacher of anabaptists. Nor have I called him by such high names as he calls himself—Poloniæ Baro. I have not sought through his name what alas, he ascribes to me. I know, thanks be to the Lord, with holy Paul, that I can not be the servant of Christ, if I seek to please men, Gal. 1:10. If I should become more honored in the name of man, be it a king or emperor, than in Christ, it would not be well with me in the end. For if I seek mine own honor, and not the honor of God, it will not be my honor. But I hope to obtain honor which will remain with me forever; men may judge me as they will, they must confess before their God, in the day of Christ. He who has eyes like a flame of fire, knows what I seek and do, my coming in and my going out, my rising up and my sitting down. If he knew nothing better of me than that which I am judged by man, then I might justly exclaim: Woe unto me, that I was born.
In the second place, he writes, "That I have unjustly attacked his reputation, and profaned their church service."
Answer. I trust that nobody can truthfully show that I have said anything but truth about John A'Lasco or his abettors and followers. But if they feel hurt at the truth, of which he thinks so hard, for this they may blame the truth and not me. I am willing to leave it to the judgment of all reasonable people, whether I wrote justly or unjustly, too much or too little in regard to his doctrine, sacraments, church service, church or community, or that of the preachers of his kind. If their doctrine and church service is of God and his word, why are not their unreasonable and reckless disciples converted from their ungodly ways and doings? For, according to the contents of the Scriptures, it is infallible that the doctrine and service which is of God, has her power and influence, Isaiah 65. But it is too evident from their fruits, that there is nothing threshed from them but chaff. My conscience tells me nothing but that I have done them and their church justice; for I have reproved them, with zeal, of the things which all the prophets, apostles and faithful witnesses of God have diligently done before me, namely: I have reproved their carnal, impenitent lives, as is manifest before all the world. If I have done wrong in this regard, then I may justly accuse Moses and the prophets together with Christ and the apostles, of it, for they have earnestly143 commanded me, unworthy creature, and all God fearing preachers to do so, for which we, miserable creatures, have to suffer so much in this wild, excited world. He who has created me, knows that I have done so in sincere love to the conversion o1 their poor souls.
In the third place, he writes, "I have been obliged to deliver our doctrine of your slander, by authority of the divine word, which doctrine you may garble among your followers, by your crying, but which you cannot refute by authority of the Scriptures, notwithstanding your boasting that you do so."
Answer. If it can be called slander to rebuke wrong, according to the Spirit and word of God? Then not only have I slandered, but also Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all the prophets, and also Christ Jesus, together with all his apostles. I have rebuked their cause according to the word of God; and by the grace of God, shown them that they are not the true messengers of God, nor their church, the true one. But it will be hard for John A'Lasco to show that our doctrine, which is not ours, but Christ's doctrine, is wrong, and also that our rebuke according to the Scriptures, is slander; and to prove before his Good, who judges all things aright, that his doctrine is right in regard to the incarnation, the baptism of infants, the calling of their preachers, their separation and the unrestrained, reckless life of his church, I fear that we will find plenty of philosophy, invention and coloring, but little scriptural power, foundation, and truth. Yea, kind reader, I am sure that if the violence of the world was ever withstood, as it doubtlessly should be, we would soon find where the victory of the Scriptures would stand.
In the fourth place he says, "If we prove our doctrine by virtue of the divine word, then it will be manifest that we were innocently slandered; and our innocence will be made manifest."
Answer. If he has proven his doctrine and sacraments to be right, by virtue of the divine word, as he boastingly asserts, I will acknowledge that I have unreasonably and wrongfully reproved them in this regard. But it is nothing but consoling the poor people with falsehood, and keeping them on the broad way by fictitious promises. Even if he could prove his doctrine and sacraments, which, however, he can not do, to be in accordance with the Scriptures, then his cause would still not be half way right; for the doctrine and sacraments are useless if the fruitful, active faith, and the pious, unblamable life, are not there; for which purpose the doctrine was promulgated, and the sacraments ordained. And what kind of life is generally led by their followers, and also by the greater part of their preachers themselves, I will leave to the judgment of those who can observe their daily actions and walk, and who have an understanding of the Holy Scriptures.
In the fifth place he says, "If you would have sent your writings to us all, as you promised to do, we might have answered you alone; but you have circulated them first among your own, before sending them to us."
Answer. I do not recollect that I have promised them this; nor can I see why I should have made such a promise, as I had nothing to write but what was my proper faith and foundation; which I desire not only to testify by writing in secret, but also with my life‑blood, before the whole world, if only the Lord strengthen and uphold me by his grace.
But, as to his writing that I should have circulated it first amongst ourselves, I would say, that he has said too much; for as soon as I had withdrawn myself from them, I went to a secret place, as I have had to do these many years, for the sake of the testimony of Christ and my conscience, and simply compiled my faith and foundation in writing, and without any delay, after our conversation, sent it to them. However, out of respect, I handed it to M. H. G., he being, at the time, Baliff or Burgomaster (Mayor). The Great Lord is my witness that this is the truth, and since it is a fact as related, how could I have circulated it among ours before it was sent to them, as he accuses me of doing; and, even if I had done as he accuses me, were he and his followers thereby wronged? Since it is not alone my foundation, but the foundation and faith of us all, as is known to many.
But his own reason convinced him that it would seem unreasonable to the reader to write such an infamous, bitter book, without cause, and therefore he must pretend something, so that his writing against the 144mute Menno, who, on account of the great tyranny, cannot answer before the world, might seem reasonable. But whether it will stand before the impartial Judgment-seat of Christ, will be made manifest in his declaration. May the beloved Lord not reckon it as sin; for I know that I am not guilty.
In the sixth place he writes, "Your followers were the cause, that I must publicly treat with you, for they have steadily circulated the report in west Friesland, and also, in a great part of Holland, that you are at liberty to teach your doctrine in our churches; and that we are certainly conquered, and have nothing wherewith to gainsay."
Answer. I never heard a word of this until I read so in his writing; if some of us have thus boasted, as he writes (which I cannot believe), then it is evident that they have not spoken the truth in that regard, but falsehood; which falsehood is a shameful thing, yea, it is of the devil, and destroys the soul, John 8:45, 55.
If he has it from hearsay, it was not right in him to listen to such partizans and liars, and to publish it in a book, to the everlasting remembrance of all the world, and the great injury of his neighbors. But if he did it of his own accord, and not from the persuasion of others, which I do not presume he did, then he dishonors his famous name and ruins his soul. For lying, I say, is a shameful thing, and will not find a place in God's city.
Again I say, I do not presume that he wrote this of his own accord, but I imagine that he was too desirous to listen to the liar, too quick to hear, and too hasty to write. Be this as it may, I know that, according to christian reasonableness and love, it does not apply to me; let him adorn it as much as he can. The great Lord will make manifest in due time what each one of us seeks and pretends, yea, maintains, teaches, does and defends.
In the seventh place he accuses me and says, "That I made light of two Latin syllogisms which he communicated to me; that I despised learning and the skill of languages; that I upbraided them as philosophers, and passed myself for simply a theologian, whereby I catch the unlearned and simple, and cause myself great consideration. That, however, my want of excellence is no meanness but rather ignorance. Yea, he has set me forth in such colors that my remembrance, although, alas, not much to my honor, will perhaps be with man as long as the world endures."
Answer. The reason why he applies these epithets to me, is, because I wrote to him and his abettors thus: Let us not controvert these things with subtle syllogisms, nor with sharp, human cavilings, for we do not profess them, but we contradict them alone by the clear, convincing word which cannot be garbled by eloquence, nor broken by human invention. These are my words, A. D. 1543, in my confession written to him and his preachers. Let those of a pious disposition judge now whether I deserve such bitter treatment. But I am aware that I did not earn this crown on account of these words, just mentioned, but for the sake of the poor, despised truth. Reader, do not misunderstand me. Never in my life, have I despised learning and skill in languages, but from my youth, honored and loved them. Although, alas, I never acquired them, yet (thanks be to God), I am not so bereft of my senses, that I should therefore despise or ridicule the knowledge of languages through which the precious word of divine grace came to our knowledge. I wish that all pious minded persons possessed this knowledge, if we would but humbly use it to the praise of our God, and the service of our neighbors, in the pure fear of God.
Is it not a shameful thing that they regard truth so little, and continually try, although unreservedly, to reflect such falsehood upon me. Yea, dear reader, if I would repay evil with evil, as the law of nature teaches me, I would collect some falsehoods, some of which were spoken, and some of which were written against me, of which neither he, nor any other man, can ever convict me. Whether this can be called just and right, I will leave to the judgment of all impartial, reasonable minds.
Would to God that he and all our opponents, would not act differently with me, than I do with them, for I trust they do not desire my blood, or at least the greater part of them. I rebuke and admonish them of all the short‑comings which I see, as love for them requires, although they think hard of that. But that I should write falsehoods against them, from this may the Lord save me. For I am well aware from which impure fountain falsehood flows, and what 145will be the end of it. I am also aware that it is not the seed from which we shall beget God's children, and gather unto Christ a church. I would have them do the same (and not differently), if I should, humanlike, fail in some things; that they would admonish and reprove me according to the truth; that they would uphold their truth (if they had any, which, alas, they have, not), by force of the Scriptures; and that they would let the seed of the serpent use his falsehood, and the seed of Cain his violence, Gen. 3:4.
But as to my ignorance, of which he so bitterly accuses me, I am not ashamed to acknowledge before all the world, that I am not only ignorant, but altogether unlearned, and very little versed in the languages. Yea, dear reader, I freely admit, as did Socrates, that I only know one thing, as regards human skill and wisdom, and that is, that I know nothing. But as regards heavenly wisdom, I am so far taught of God, through the grace of the Lord, that I sincerely confess that my Redeemer and Savior, Christ Jesus, is the only and first begotten Son of God; that whosoever believeth in him hath everlasting life; that he that believeth not is condemned; that a liar is of the devil; that "whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer;" that unless ye repent, ye shall all perish; that "the wages of sin is death," John 3:8; 1 John 3:15; Luke 13:6; Rom. 6:23. And from this unregarded wisdom (eternal praise be to the Lord), I have obtained so much fear in my poor soul, that my earthly, carnal mind is converted into a better; and that I am so sorry that I cannot walk in Christ Jesus, with all my strength, according to the will of God, and be a sincere, unblamable christian; that I cannot bring the whole world from its obdurate, ungodly state, into a new, repentant, christian life, with the Spirit, power, and word of the Lord. For this is my only joy and ardent desire, that we may rightly preach Christ Jesus, according to his holy word; that we may seek, fear, love and serve his holy name. Yea, that we may become the city of the living God, the glorious kingdom, to his honor, and the temple of his Holy Spirit, 2 Cor. 6:16.
And this same wisdom which produces such power and fruit, I esteem as being the most worthy of all wisdom imaginable; even if taught and restored by an unlearned cart‑driver or coal‑carrier‑yea, it is the only joy and desire of my afflicted heart; the only amelioration of my misery; and will be to the end, by the grace of God, the glorious ornament and crown of my honor. Of this noble, highly learned wisdom and philosophy read in Solomon's proverbs, also Sirach and the Book of Wisdom, and you will find which is its proper virtue, work and power.
Behold, reader, for the sake of this philosophic sweetness, honor, virtue, fruit, love and beauty, which I have not learned of famous doctors nor in high schools, and for the sake of filling my soul with its living power, I have rather chosen to be the ignorant and unlearned fool of the world, that I may be found wise before my God, than to be one of the most famous of the world, and at last be found a fool before the wise God. And this is my short answer and excuse to his charges and bitter upbraidings.
I say again, that in the simplicity of my heart I wrote the words "subtile syllogism," and "sharp cavilings," without, at all, despising science, and that I did not mean thereby to despise or curtail any one. I praise science when justly used to the glory of God. But above all I praise the humble, virtuous science and wisdom which is from above, for it will never perish, but in glorious honor remain with all the pious, into eternal life.
This, now, is the first part of this book, and I would have preferred to remain silent upon these things, if they had not been published to embitter some, to hinder the word, and to the affliction of the God fearing. But as it is, circumstances have rendered it necessary for me to do so. May the beloved Lord grant us his grace. Amen.
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